Steve Weisberg: I Can’t Stand Another Night Alone (In Bed With You) (XtraWATT/1)

I Can't Stand

Steve Weisberg
I Can’t Stand Another Night Alone (In Bed With You)

Lew Soloff trumpet (solo on “Trapped”)
Baikida Carroll trumpet (solo on “Table”)
Gary Valente trombone
John Clark French horn
Wolfgang Puschnig alto saxophone, flute
Howard Johnson baritone saxophone, contrabass clarinet, tuba
Hiram Bullock guitar
Steve Weisberg piano, synthesizer, organ (on “Table” and “You Can’t”)
Steve Swallow bass
Victor Lewis drums (on “I Can’t Stand”)
Anton Fier drums (on “Table” and “Trapped”)
and
Norman David tenor saxophone
Neil Leonard clarinet
Eric Goldberg accordion
Karen Mantler organ (on “I Can’t Stand” and “Trapped”)
Mike Stanzilis bass (on “Trapped”)
Jack Cook drums (on “You Can’t”)
Ken Winokur percussion
Carol Capstein viola
Priscilla Chew cello
Frank Luther double bass
Recorded and mixed November/December 1985 by Tom Mark at Grog Kill Studio, Willow, New York
Produced by Carla Bley and Steve Swallow
Release date: November 1, 1986

In 1986, the WATT sublabel—a dedicated showcase for the musical projects of Carla Bley and Michael Mantler—gave birth to the sub-sublabel XtraWATT. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the inaugural release was handed off to Steve Weisberg. The onetime New York fixture, who continues to perform regularly with his orchestra (only now in Los Angeles, where he relocated permanently in 2003), is perhaps best known as a prodigious arranger who has worked with such diverse talents as Hal Willner, Marianne Faithfull, Howard Tate, and Suzy Williams, to name but a few.

The unmistakable trombone of Gary Valente opens the title track with a swanky, after-midnight atmosphere. Boiling with the tension of finding love in an urban sprawl, the music welcomes a large-scale ensemble, many members of which are on loan from the Carla Bley Big Band. Expertly blended strings and a bass line from Steve Swallow kick off an evocative groove through sunnier climates. The accordion of Eric Goldberg adds to the seaside palette and invites us on a journey to faraway places where dreams live on despite the dank reality outside our doors. Weisberg’s warped synthesizer reminds us that beauty always fades.

“Table For One” and “Trapped In True Love” are the album’s finest passages. Both feature legendary underground drummer Anton Fier, who bounces lithely beneath Swallow’s groundlines. The former tune features a clarion solo from trumpeter Baikida Carroll, while the latter boasts alluring horn textures and a carnivalesque undertone. Trumpeter Lew Soloff emits solar flares in his solo, and guitarist Hiram Bullock adds to the mounting tension, both in his comping and incendiary solo. Between these two encounters, we are treated to the interludes of “Walking Home Alone” and “Waking Up Alone,” each a haunt of cinematic proportions. All of which makes the final blast of fantasy that is “You Can’t Have Anything” an uplifting takeaway.

Having no idea what to expect from this recording, especially given the less-than-appealing title and cover art (a lesson I should already have learned during my jaunt through WATT), imagine my delight when I found this to be a lovingly composed, arranged, and performed album from start to finish. In Weisberg there beats a kindred heart to Carla Bley, whose influence is felt all over this curious little gem from one of jazz’s behind-the-scenes iconoclasts.