Goes to Church

COMPOSERS: Carla Bley
LABELS: WATT
ALBUM TITLE: The Carla Bley Big Band
PERFORMER: Carla Bley (p) and her big band
CATALOGUE NO: /27 533 682-2 (distr. New Note)

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Carla Bley, one-time cigarette girl at Birdland, on whom the female replicants from Blade Runner might have been modelled, has delivered yet another wonderful big band work. And again she has succeeded by retaining a core of players who go well together and by writing melodically memorable music specifically with them in mind.

Mostly new, the compositions evolve from a three-bar churchy waltz phrase into what Bley describes as ‘nearly seventy minutes of blaring big band music’. With its fragments of Messiah, a modern hymnal theme called ‘Exaltation’ and organ interludes, she says the intended flavour is high Episcopal rather than gospel (the live recording was made in the Chiesa San Francesco Al Prato in Perugia).

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But the resulting sound, embracing hollering blues, delicious swing and swooning melodies, is an altogether more catholic affair. Featured trumpeter Lew Soloff’s tone is divine, Wolfgang Puschnig’s solo passages are spellbinding and the whole ensemble sweeps along majestically under Bley’s instruction. This is manna for big band believers and non-believers alike. GB