by: Hobart Taylor
Carla Bley Andy Sheppard Steve Swallow - Andando el Tiempo - (ECM)
"Andando el Tiempo" translates from Spanish as "In due course" (Collins-Spanish English Dictionary). On the occasion of Bley's 80th birthday, she and frequent collaborators bassist Swallow and saxophonist Sheppard celebrate music that transcends genre, chronology, and fashion.
Bley is frequently acknowledged by musicians and critics alike as one of modern music's superior composers, arrangers and pianists. The fact that I have to say that in this review is a testament to the ongoing isolation serious music has in this culture, and doubly a testament of the failure of the popular media to recognize the women who have labored intensely to develop and alter the frontiers of music from Alice Coltrane to Julia Wolfe, Maria Schneider to Carla Bley.
The trio format allows for the delicate interweaving of ensemble play and individual expression. However unlike the jazz tradition where each individual musician speaks independently in celebration of her or his own virtuosity, the solos on this recording egolessly work in support of the musical ideas and themes inspired by Bley's writing.
In other words there is the compositional cohesion that exists in strictly notated music, yet each instrument contributes a personal voice in the interest of group thought.
On the surface these tunes meet at an intersection between Jazz, Latin, and 20th century classical music. Beneath that surface what makes Bley's music profound is that while she utilizes these and other traditions, her unique compositional voice predominates.
Note: I will be airing an interview with Bley and Swallow during my program The Crystal Egg, Thursday May 12 between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM.
Jeff Guthery - Black Paintings (Featuring Kenny Werner and the East Coast Scoring Orchestra) - (sel-released)
This ambitious suite inspired by Goya's intensely dramatic and personal "Black Paintings" done as murals on the walls of the artist's home in his declining years, years haunted by anguish and physical decay, juxtaposes orchestral composition with improvisation by a jazz quintet. Profound and moving, it defies generic description, and is sui generis. Highly recommended.
Brad Mehldau - 10 Years Solo Live - (Nonesuch)
Pianist Mehldau in his solo performances, like Keith Jarrett, vamps on jazz and popular music themes with Lisztian bravura. Taken from live dates all over Europe he moves from Brahms to The Verve, from Radiohead and Jeff Buckley to Coltrane and Monk. By deconstructing these melodies he reveals the gorgeous inner workings of tunes folks like to hum.
Valerie Milot - Orbis - (Analekta)
Harpist Milot plays the music of Steve Reich, Frank Zappa, John Cage, Gentle Giant, and others. She brings intense energy and intelligence to her interpretations.