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Saturday, 20 June 2020 20:16

Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow - Life Goes On

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It does, you know - Life Goes On.

For most of us, life really does go on and thank goodness, in these crazy Covid-19 pandemic times, there are musicians like Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow producing music of such as beauty as Life Goes On.

This album is exquisite. That’s all you need to know, really. Take a listen and let me know if you disagree.

There’s a moment in the title track when Bley’s piano drops out, leaving Swallow’s bass and Sheppard’s tenor sax to fill the air. She then contributes a few, well-placed chords as the trio ends together. This album is the epitome of ‘less is more’. There is a sparseness that allows every note to matter. Whether piano, bass or sax, every individual note rings true and resonates both separately and together with the others. There are moments of solo playing, and moments where each of the others sits behind or sits out, depending on what is required.

Listen to an album teaser here:

This is the third in a sequence - Trios (2013) and Andando El Tiempo (2016) and now Life Goes On. Once again, recorded in Lugano and produced by Manfred Eicher.

Bley is quoted as saying: "I hear our voices in my mind's ear as I compose for us. I especially relish the conversational flow the trio format allows. We're essentially a chamber music ensemble, and this allows me to write music for us free of bombast and exaggeration. Music stripped down to its basic elements. This format also demands that, as players, we improvise in the character of each particular song, which is both a challenge and, on a good night, a great satisfaction."

Not only a trio of albums, played by a trio, but also a trio of suites. The first is the conversational and laid-back Life Goes On. The second - Beautiful Telephones - has a darkness one might consider apt considering it is inspired by an oft-quoted Trump observation about communication in the White House. Copycat is the third suite, with each performer inspiring, following and occasionally mimicking the others. There’s much of a sense of call and response in these last three tracks on what is, in its totality, a truly fine album.

When we all need to hear that Life Goes On, this is what we should listen to.


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