Carla Bley piano
Andy Sheppard soprano and tenor saxophones
Steve Swallow bass
Billy Drummond drums
Recorded October 2003 on tour in Europe
Engineer: Bill Strode
Mixed November 2003 by Tom Mark and Steve Swallow at The Make Believe Ballroom, West Shokan, New York
Produced by Steve Swallow
Release date: June 7, 2004
The Lost Chords marks the birth of a marvelous quartet comprised of Carla Bley on piano, Andy Sheppard on soprano and tenor saxophones, Steve Swallow on electric bass, and Billy Drummond on drums. Culled from a European tour in October of 2003, the set presented for our listening pleasure is one of chameleonic moods and methods.
“3 Blind Mice” adlibs on the nursery rhyme with a comic genius that is uniquely Bley. What at first abides by a rigorous sense of rhythm soon gives way to childlike wonder, and perhaps clues us in on the seemingly inexhaustible creative well from which she and her bandmates draw. The middle section of this three-parter yields one of Sheppard’s most astonishing runs, breathing circularly through his soprano with an air of mystery. Swallow and Drummond retie the backdrop to ensure the integrity of every scene change, the drummer unleashing particular catharsis in the wake of Sheppard’s exhausting run. Drummond shines further on “Hip Hop,” which nods his head alongside Swallow’s funky stylings.
After the 80s throwback of “Tropical Depression” (a lost track from Night-Glo, perhaps?) and the hipper inflections of “Red,” in which Bley follows Swallow’s tightrope walk from below with arms outstretched yet never needing to fear that he might stumble, the “Lost Chords” suite brushes our vision with pigments of twilight, followed by a boppish ride into the statelier conclusion that holds its final chord to the point of breathlessness.
At every turn, Bley calls upon her capacity for placing notes exactly where they belong, neither underselling nor exaggerating her role. As composer, she is the mastermind. As performer, she knows where she and her bandmates need to be, and allots their due accordingly.