The Carla Bley Band: European Tour 1977 (WATT/8)

European Tour 1977

The Carla Bley Band
European Tour 1977

Michael Mantler trumpet
Elton Dean alto saxophone
Gary Windo tenor saxophone
John Clark French horn, guitar
Roswell Rudd trombone
Bob Stewart tuba
Terry Adams piano
Carla Bley organ, tenor saxophone
Hugh Hopper bass guitar (bass drum on “Drinking Music”)
Andrew Cyrille drums
Recorded September 1977 at Bavaria Musik Studios, Munich
Engineer: Jörg Scheuermann
Assistant: Robert Wedel
Mixed October 1977 at Grog Kill Studio, Willow, New York
Engineer: Michael Mantler
Produced by Carla Bley
Release date: February 1, 1978

European Tour 1977 documents that very event—a significant one in the life of the Carla Bley Band, debuting like a boulder thrown into the ocean of the late 1970s. As per her last project, Dinner Music, Bley takes the opportunity to introduce a perennial tune of the WATT universe. “Wrong Key Donkey” is a wry congregation of dissonant horns, bass guitar (Hugh Hopper this time, with no Swallow in sight), drums (the one and only Andrew Cyrille), piano (Bley), and guitar (John Clark). It’s also the first appearance of tenor saxophonist Gary Windo on the recorded Bley roster, and his presence serves to emphasize a playfulness that invites the listener to be a cocreator rather than a mere spectator. If it takes two to tango, then it takes a legion to donkey.

Before that we are laid to premature rest in the plush coffin of “Rose And Sad Song.” Or so we might think, as the mournful combination of piano and trumpet (courtesy of Michael Mantler) that ushers us into the album proper lays the groundwork for a downtown groove from the rhythm section. With such vivid colors to paint with, deepest among them being Roswell Rudd’s trombone, this canvas of spirits glows the night away with almost religious faith in the music at hand.

The title of “Drinking Music” would seem to be an overt nod to Dinner, its romping horns bringing out a cinematic materiality in preparation for the 19-minute “Spangled Banner Minor And Other Patriotic Songs.” With its flowering allusions (a Beethovenian take on “The Star-Spangled Banner” most brilliant among them) and campy overtones, the suite wears a tongue in cheek as its logo. Alto saxophonist Elton Dean hits a home run with is madly dancing solo before Rudd leads the way to the finish.

This is deconstruction as reconstruction. Another Bley essential.

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