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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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ECM 372 4551



1. Utviklingssang

2. Vashkar

3. Les Trois Lagons (d'après Henri Matisse)

4. Wildlife

5. The Girl Who Cried Champagne


Carla Bley - Piano

Andy Sheppard - Tenor sax, soprano sax

Steve Swallow - Bass guitar


The usual collection of ECM-style gloomy photos of the three musicians coupled with the unfamiliar tune titles led me to expect something worthy but rather dull from this CD. I'm pleased to report that my expectations were way off the mark. This may be `chamber jazz' but it's pleasingly accessible, melodic and, at times, amusingly quirky.

Bley fans will know that the now septuagenarian pianist has recorded for her own WATT label for many years and this CD is the first she has recorded under the supervision of Manfred Eicher. The tunes, all composed by Bley, have been recorded by her previously in other formats, some involving Sheppard and Swallow who have been associates of Bley for many years.

The empathy between the three musicians is immediately evident on the calm and beautiful Utviklingssan (Norwegian for `Development Song’) where Sheppard's lithe tenor floats gracefully over Bley and Swallow's delicately precise accompaniment. On Vashkar Sheppard's soprano sax darts melodically over the others' springy rhythms. Les Trois Lagons was originally written for the Grenoble Jazz Festival and is based on three plates in a book of cut-outs by Matisse. The three parts move swiftly from a sprightly opening to a sombre middle section and a quirky closer.

Sheppard is again on soprano sax for Wildlife, a suite of three tunes individually titled Horns, Paws without Claws and Sex with Birds. Laced with humour, the suite begins quietly and ends with a playful flourish. The Girl Who Cried Champagne was first recorded by Bley's big band on the 1989 CD Fleur Carnivore (Sheppard and Swallow were both present) and is one of Bley's most attractive compositions - it's catchy and jaunty with more than a hint of latin rhythms.

Beautiful playing by all three musicians on a very enjoyable CD which should appeal to more than just the devoted Bley fans.

George Stacy

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