Carla Bley Trio review by Joanne Kee

Performance June 2017, Melbourne International Jazz Festival, at the Melbourne Recital Centre

As an octogenarian, it was a great privilege to have Carla Bley finally reach our shores for her premiere performances with her trio at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

Bley’s has produced a remarkable body of work across almost 30 albums, in small groups and big bands, most notably with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. In 2015 she was recognised with the NEA Jazz Master award.

Accompanied by her long time partner Steve Swallow on bass guitar, the mood of the night was of tenderness and care, without demanding look at me solos. Yes, there were solos, but they were of a gentler more thoughtful partnership based nature. The trio was completed with Andy Sheppard on saxes, an ECM recording artist, bandleader and composer in his own right.

Bley’s Copycat suite opened the night, with its slow waltzing framework for Sheppard’s sax which moved into a brighter theme with paraphrases from Bley’s piano line.

This was followed by Beautiful Telephones, a newer work dedicated to Donald Trump, with refrains reminiscent of spys and Big Brother, with gorgeous throw away lines from Yankee Doodle Dandy and to top it off I did it my way.

Her closing piece Andando el Tiempo, a journey in three movements, is a study of a friend’s journey through addiction. The work was mesmerising as we moved through delicate brush strokes of music  with hypnotic, almost soporific guitar notes taking us through the highs and lows of addiction.

The band took turns speaking about the music and whilst it felt as though Carla shuns the band leader spotlight, she did express her delight at spending time in Melbourne.

Thanks Melbourne International Jazz Festival, for bringing yet another  leading jazz artist and her ensemble to our shores.

Carla Bley piano, Andy Sheppard saxophone, Steve Swallow electric bass