CD REVIEW: Carla Bley/ Steve Swallow/ Andy Sheppard - Andando el Tiempo

Carla Bley/ Steve Swallow/ Andy Sheppard - Andando el Tiempo
(ECM 4779711. CD review by Mike Collins)

Carla Bley turned 80 in May. It’s clear from this set of new compositions, recorded with the long-standing trio of Bley, Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard, her formidable powers are undiminished.

This is just the second release by the trio with ECM’s Manfred Eicher in the producer’s chair and it’s of course beautifully recorded, allowing the spacious music to breath and the delicate interplay within the trio to infuse Bley’s distinctive pieces with a lustrous beauty.

The first two thirds of the set is filled by a suite whose name gives the album its title. Andando el Tiempo: Sin Fin and Andando el Tiempo: Potacion De Guya have the same haunting melody at their core, built around the simplest of gradually mutating two note phrases and played over a stately tango-like pulse. The trio, in turn patiently explore the material allowing embellishments and melodic fragments to resonate and develop, the first section with darker overtones and moods. Andando el Tiempo: Camino Al Volver develops more energy, its jigsaw like construction providing a snappy launchpad for solos. Saints Alive!’s gently loping feel gives both Swallow and Sheppard an opportunity to play sweetly and melodically and Naked Bridges/ Diving Bridges an extended, tone poem like piece dissolves into an extended looping invention of a coda.

Bley has described her compositions as reduced big band music, demanding al lot of these musicians, but the trio are more than equal to it. Andy Sheppard is on great form, his unmistakable breathy tone making the melodies sing whilst Swallow’s electric bass grounds the sound with sinuous lines or takes flight as melodic voice. Over a period of twenty years this trio has been charming and delighting audiences, a vehicle for Bley’s unique writing and distinctive playing. Long may it continue.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

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