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Carla Bley

For some, composer/bandleader Carla Bley long ago expended the avant-garde cred of her early years, but they’d be missing the fact that no one is writing — or playing — more beautiful jazz. Here she and her band, the Lost Chords (Bley on piano, saxophonist Andy Sheppard, bassist Steve Swallow, drummer Billy Drummond), have recruited the Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu for a suite called “The Banana Quintet,” plus a re-do of a couple of older Bley pieces. Bley’s limpid melodies are both funny (the titles should tell you that) and poignant, especially on ballads, but never sentimental. The ensemble textures are similarly transparent, Bley twining trumpet and sax, teasing them apart, the rhythms tending toward wave-like triple meters, Latin dance, 5/4. Pieces unfold like dramas — a lone trumpet, call-and-response with the band, a guitar-like bass solo on a different theme, a section of horn dialogue. With Sheppard and Fresu, their woolly tones nuzzling each other, that dialogue is like warm conversation at a sidewalk café. In this context, virtuoso skill is the soul of wit. This band breathes together — because that’s how the music was written.

Latest Articles


Interview: Steve Swallow on the Gary Burton Quartet

An interview with Steve Swallow
DO YOU REMEMBER EXACTLY HOW YOU GUYS FIRST GOT TOGETHER? I have a memory. I tend to distrust them, but my recollection is that I met Gary when he called me up and asked me if I would consider playing in Stan Getz's band, which he was already in.
By JON GARELICK  |  June 30, 2009

Meet the Beatles!

The Gary Burton Quartet remembers its roots
Swallow says that when he first picked up an electric bass, "My immediate impression was: 'Oh, shit! I'm in deep trouble here!' "
By JON GARELICK  |  June 17, 2009

Year in Jazz: Playing for keeps

By JON GARELICK  |  December 22, 2008

Fourth-quarter earnings

Haden, Hunter, Rollins, Mela, Bley, and e.s.t.
Times a-wastin' on 2008, so before it's too late, here's a handful of discs that have caught my ear over the past few months.
By JON GARELICK  |  December 17, 2008

Week in the knees

Jazz Week kicks out the jams, plus Bley and Zorn
“Jazz Week,” which runs April 26–May 4, tends to appropriate all events to its needs — if you’re playing, say, your regularly scheduled gig at Matt Murphy’s Pub this week, you’re part of Jazz Week.
By JON GARELICK  |  April 28, 2008

Fearful asymmetry

Carla Bley’s Lost Chords, Bill Frisell’s 858 Quartet
Carla Bley’s local appearances are so rare that each one is an event.
By JON GARELICK  |  April 09, 2008

Budding groves

Jazz in the clubs — and the museums
More and more, museums are getting into the live-music scene.
By JON GARELICK  |  March 11, 2008

Carla Bley

The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu | Watt/ECM
No one is writing — or playing — more beautiful jazz.
By JON GARELICK  |  December 31, 2007

Joe + Judi

Lovano and Silvano are two of a kind
Husband and wife Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano came from different musical backgrounds, but they found home — and each other — in the musical ferment of New York’s late-’70s jazz-loft scene.
By JON GARELICK  |  September 05, 2006

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