Carla Bley: Heavy Heart (WATT/14)

Heavy Heart

Carla Bley
Heavy Heart

Carla Bley organ, synthesizer
Steve Slagle flute, alto and baritone saxophones
Hiram Bullock guitar
Gary Valente trombone
Kenny Kirkland piano
Steve Swallow bass
Victor Lewis drums
Manolo Badrena percussion
Additional Horns:
Michael Mantler trumpet
Earl McIntyre tuba
Recorded September and October 1983 by Tom Mark at Grog Kill Studio, Willow, New York
Mixed November 1983 by Nick Griffiths at Britannia Row Studios, London
Engineer: Tom Mark
Produced by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler
Release date: March 1, 1984

The next phase of Carla Bley’s ten-piece stomp through the space-time continuum ushers us into the chambers of her Heavy Heart. Whether navigating the turns of “Light Or Dark” or making a “Joyful Noise,” Bley and her band prove that life is only as full as one’s ability to roll with the punches. Drenched in sunlight, these musicians converse more like family than friends. Saxophonist Steve Slagle (also on flute) is a foregrounded presence on both tunes, in which Bley displays her formidable ability to speak through melody. The addition of pianist Kenny Kirkland is a genius move, and he paints the canvases at hand with both knife and brush. Guitarist Hiram Bullock, too, lends fresh color to the Bley palette while the bandleader herself applies a topcoat of synthesizer. With this much scenery to enjoy, far removed from the bustle of everyday life, we can come out of the experience having traveled in the most literal way.

“Talking Hearts” is another close-up on Bullock, who pulls on starlight like a thread and uses it to stitch memories together before their narrative falls apart. Bley’s synth comes across as the voice of a childhood refusing to fade, reveling instead in its own retro-ness in an increasingly modern world. This warm and fuzzy feeling revives itself in “Starting Again,” wherein Kirkland’s crosstalk with the rhythm section, resolute against hot-blooded horns, builds to prominence, but not before the total eclipse of “Ending It” shields the glare of Gary Valente’s trombone. The effect is such that when the time comes for the title track to bid us farewell, Bley cannot resist turning back, freeze-framing on what could have been. Remember that face, for the next time we see it, she will be gushing with that sense of renewal only love can bring, on the way to rewriting her script once more.

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