Carla Bley Big Band for this Christmas eve. Okay, maybe not full of Christmas music, but this concert is joyous as hell – and if it doesn’t get you up and moving, you better check your pulse because you may have stepped off the mortal coil and not noticed. It was recorded by the venerable Radio France on March 16, 1982 at Studio 104 in Paris.
Outside the realm of the ECM and Modern Jazz aficionado, of which there are many, Carla Bley just isn’t all that well known, certainly within the mainstream. And that is just nuts. Carla Bley is one of the most inventive, innovative, engaging, throughly engrossing musical figures of the later 20th century. Long associated with Steve Swallow in a trio/quartet setting, Bley takes full advantage of the Big Band setting – and heads straight into the ranks of the Gil Evans‘, Tad Dameron‘s and Oliver Nelson’s.
It’s joyful music which takes advantage of a huge instrumental landscape, and dips in and out of the familiar and the experimental. You don’t have to be a Jazz fan to love this – it’s music that speaks on a lot of levels, and hits all the important parts of the brain. It’s a tapestry you can look at for days and keep finding things to love about it.
You could say I’m a fan and have been for a number of years – the output and the energy haven’t let up since this concert was recorded 35 years ago. Her Christmas concert from 2008 (which I ran here in 2012) and her collaboration with Steve Swallow at a recent BBC Radio 3 concert offers ample proof Carla Bley is on top of her game and the energy is infectious.
Jazz fans and those familiar with the music of Carla Bley need no encouragement to dive into this. Those of you on the fence, or just getting your feet wet or are musically dial-hopping – check this concert out. It’s a great stepping off place. Lots to dig into here, lots to listen to over and over.
And it makes perfect tree-trimming music too. Just sayin’.