Carla Bley/Steve Swallow: Are we there yet? (WATT/29)

WATT-29-front

Carla Bley
Steve Swallow
Are we there yet?

Carla Bley piano
Steve Swallow bass
Recorded live on tour in Europe, October 1998
Engineer: Bill Strode
Mixed and mastered at Grog Kill Studio, Willow, New York
Engineer: Tom Mark
General co-ordination: Ilene Mark
Produced by Carla Bley and Steve Swallow
Release date: June 21, 1999

After expanding their sonic universe over two phenomenal duo albums, pianist Carla Bley and bassist Steve Swallow now make that metaphor explicit in their choice of cover art. From the first licks of “Major,” one of a handful of Bley originals, it’s clear we’re inhabiting a galaxy that is indeed far, far away. Recorded live during a 1998 European tour, it’s the first of an artisanal selection of performances that tickle the ear and the heart alike. Other Bley gems include “King Korn,” in which Swallow’s delicate propulsions copy themselves like sentient DNA, and a gloriously bare-boned “Musique Mecanique,” in which the appearance of something so simple as a metronome shows mature reconsideration of the past.

Swallow lets us in on the secrets of three magic tricks of his own. Between the bluesy undercurrents of “A Dog’s Life” and the flatland ballad of “Playing With Water,” we witness especial thoughtfulness in “Satie For Two.” An elegant homage to the French composer, it spreads its butter across an expansive slice of proverbial bread. The brightness of Swallow’s solo climbs the ladder of Bley’s chords until he reaches the very clouds.

The set rounds out with an interpretation of Kurt Weill’s “Lost In The Stars,” for which Swallow embraces the full range of his instrument, moving with guitar-like fluidity. As throughout the album, it’s a vibrant embodiment of life itself, photorealistic and honest to the core.

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