Carla Bley: Fleur Carnivore (WATT/21)

Fleur Carnivore

Carla Bley
Fleur Carnivore

Lew Soloff, Jens Winther trumpets
Frank Lacy French horn, flugelhorn
Gary Valente trombone
Bob Stewart tuba
Daniel Beaussier oboe, flute
Wolfgang Puschnig, Andy Sheppard, Christof Lauer, Roberto Ottini saxophones
Karen Mantler harmonica, organ, vibes, chimes
Carla Bley piano
Steve Swallow bass
Buddy Williams drums
Don Alias percussion
Recorded live, November 14-16, 1988 at the Montmartre, Copenhagen, Denmark
Remote recording by Sweet Silence Studios
Engineer: Flemming Rasmussen
Assistant: Lau Hansen
Live recording supervision: Michael Mantler
Concert sound: Paul Sparrow
Assistant: John Kenton
Mixed at Grog Kill Studio, Willow, New York
Engineer: Tom Mark
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York
General co-ordination: Michael Mantler
Produced by Carla Bley and Steve Swallow
Release date: October 1, 1989

After the confidential overloads of Night-Glo and subsequent sessions, Carla Bley returns with a 15-piece band in this rich live recording from 1988 made in Copenhagen. The title track, a hat tip to Duke Ellington, is a gradual blush of ornamented sensuality and introduces yet more enduring talents to the Bley nexus in trumpeter Lew Soloff and saxophonists Wolfgang Puschnig and Andy Sheppard. Soloff and Puschnig are handed the first major solos of the set, turning night into day as the band goes from a crawl to a swing. The performance is solid, comfortable, and sumptuous.

Though much of what follows is a retread of what came before, the field in which it is planted is freshly tilled before contact. This includes “Ups And Downs” (reprised from Duets and notable for Frank Lacy’s fluegelhorn in dialogue with the reed of Christof Lauer) and the tripartite “The Girl Who Cried Champagne.” The latter will be familiar to devotees of Sextet and is a worthy showcase for each soloist. There’s even a poetic harmonica solo courtesy of Karen Mantler—the traveler’s daughter, ever traveling herself. All of this thirsts for the final tincture of “Healing Power” (another Sextet holdover). Gospel-tinged and deepened by sermons from trombonist Gary Valente (upward) and Swallow (downward), it’s doctrinal without being pretentious and is a fitting end to an unbreakable set that shows Bley capable of anything, and better than most.

The one standalone classic here is “Song Of The Eternal Waiting Of Canute.” Between its far south-of-the-border vibe, enhanced by bird calls and other natural details, and full moon of brass, the piece cycles back and forth between real-time exposition and jungle fantasy. Thankfully, Bley and her band wield their instruments like machetes, ready to cut through tangle that might get in their way.

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