Carla Bley Trio
Andando el Tiempo
Carla Bley piano
Andy Sheppard tenor and soprano saxophones
Steve Swallow bass
Recorded November 2015, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: May 6, 2016
Andando el Tiempo, like any Carla Bley record, is more than a document; it’s a living testament to a genius whose relevance is as lasting as her need to express it. And express it she has for over two decades with the trio presented here. With saxophonist Andy Sheppard and bassist Steve Swallow she has forged a triangle of almost-divine equality. Like its predecessor, Trios, the present session distills enormous ideas with natural assurance, but unlike that 2013 masterpiece does so through a program of entirely new material.
The title suite consists of three pieces, each dealing with the subject of addiction, as inspired by watching a friend go through the transformation of recovery and the great sacrifices required to grab hold of light when darkness is closing in from every side. “Sin Fin” represents that first step of self-awareness required to start on the path to freedom from substance abuse. The measured assessments woven into its melodic denouement are deeply illustrative of this process. Bley’s pianism evokes a vicious cycle of medication while Swallow offers glimpses of hope. But it’s the brush of Sheppard’s visceral tenor that absorbs most of Bley’s compositional ink, shedding its allegiance to demons for want of heavenly understanding. “Potación de Guaya” waters those seeds of faith with Sheppard’s life-giving soprano and Swallow’s yielding affirmations. After all this inwardness, “Camino al Volver” breaks the shell of dependence in favor of a brighter day. Its realism shows through in controlled exuberance.
“Saints Alive!” is a more conversational piece that treats each instrument as a voice with something to say. Its free and easy atmosphere goes down like a tall glass of peach iced tea on a summer’s evening. In closing, “Naked Bridges/Diving Brides” takes its inspiration from Felix Mendelssohn and the poem “Peking Widow” by Paul Haines, who wrote the libretto for Bley’s Escalator Over The Hill. Written as a wedding gift for Sheppard and his wife Sara, it ties the final bow on a gift that no other coming together of musicians could have produced, making for one of the most honest and personal experiences to grace ECM’s catalog in years.