Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow ‘Trio’ (ECM) 4/5

Carla Bley Andy Sheppard Steve Swallow
Trios rarely come as cohesive as this one and in the case of Carla Bley and Steve Swallow they have been performing together for a few decades, though Andy Sheppard has performed previously with both musicians. This album is something of a novelty in so far as it is the first time in forty years that Carla Bley has recorded on the ECM label rather than on its off-shot WATT one. Recorded in Lugano, the delicate nature of the sound created and the telepathic communication between the three constituent members comes shining through and is a joy to behold. Some of the long-time favourite compositions from the pianist’s repertoire have been lovingly reworked and in the process the old chestnuts re-ingnited. These include the sensitive opener ‘Utviklingssang’ with just one of the delights on this piece being the vulnerable sounding saxophone of Sheppard who comes across here as an early-mid 1970s Garbarek on the highest tenor pitches. As ever Swallow is that most selfless of accompanists. The evocative hues of ‘Vashkar’ conjure up a Spanish musical landscape and while Bley hovers on top, Swallow lays down below a repetitive bass-line groove with Sheppard on soprano now sounding at his most Shorter-esque. Two lengthy suites make up the remainder of the set with Part One of the ‘Girl who cried champagne’ impressing with another roaming bass-line and some Getz-like tenor. A second medley of tunes is inspired by the paintings of Henri Matisse and it is the third part which is conveyed most effectively. The trio will perform at this year’s London Jazz festival on 24 November. It will certainly be one of the most eagerly awaited festival concerts. Tim Stenhouse

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