We are a little obsessed with Carla Bley's new album, released in May to coincide with her 80th birthday.
Andando el Tiempo combines Bley's artistry as a composer and a pianist with the skills of her long-established trio. This is music that allows Bley on piano to intertwine with Andy Sheppard's tenor and soprano saxes and bassist Steve Swallow.
Bley always manages to combine a sense of the classical and jazz. This album is trio playing as a true collaboration, perhaps showing something of the two decades of exploring this same group of musicians. The three instruments interweave, sometimes seeming separate and then coming together beautifully. Bley once described herself as "one per cent player and ninety-nine per cent composer" but this album would hold a different magic with a different pianist. She has a lightness of touch in both composition and playing that allows the music to resonate.
The three-part title composition tells the story of the difficult road to recovery from addiction. Andando el Tiempo - In the Course of Time - but anyone with no experience of addiction will find this a stunning piece. Three sections each have their own character. Sin Fin feels dance-like and does, indeed, seem to be without end, as it segues perfectly into Potacion de Guaya, with the sax taking barely a breath. There is indeed, a sadness to this second movement and its intended to portray the grief of those around an addict.
The third movement - Camino al Volver begins with a beautiful phrase that spans the length of the piano keyboard. It's probably my favourite few seconds of this album, followed by sax stabs that develop into a real trio section that playfully gives each instrument the chance to shine. If this talks about addiction, the end presents the way to return of the title. Perhaps there's no cure for addiction, but there may a path to take back to some normality. The three movement work stands as a great composition and a masterful performance on this album, regardless of Bley's intended meaning.
The final two tracks on the album add new opportunities for trios to show off their artistry. Saints Alive is a tasteful vehicle for the trio. Naked Bridges/Diving Brides was written as a wedding present for Sheppard and his wife Sara. Sheppard's soprano is masterful as it dances between the piano and bass lines. It's a great trio composition and a fitting way to close the album.
Andando el Tiempo is one of those albums which improves with age. There are depths of composition and nuances of performance which jump to the ear only over time.
Review: Hilary Robertson