Cardenas, Allison & Nash: Healing Power – The Music Of Carla Bley

The guitar, reed and bass trio take a look at familiar and lesser-known Bley songs, including Ida Lupino, And Now The Queen and Olhos De Gato


This is the third album from the drumless trio of guitarist Steve Cardenas, bassist Ben Allison and saxophonist and clarinetist Ted Nash. It follows Quiet Revolution in 2016 and Somewhere Else: West Side Story Songs in 2019. Healing Power comprises nine of Carla Bley’s compositions, combining well-known pieces with some of those less covered.

Cardenas worked with Bley when they were in Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and later in Steve Swallow’s quartet. His distinctive guitar tone is heard to great effect on Bley’s Ida Lupino, written in 1964 as her tribute to the 1950s actress. It was first released by ex-husband Paul Bley in 1975 and then on her own Dinner Music album in 1977.

It’s followed by the blues-tinged Donkey, with dextrous tenor from Nash and guitar bursts from Cardenas. Donkey was never recorded by Bley herself. Her fleeting And Now The Queen was released by Don Ellis in 1962 and on Paul Bley’s album Barrage in 1965. The same album also contained Ictus, which is delivered here with dramatic guitar soloing and dazzlingly fast runs from Nash and Allison.

The trio’s delicate rendition of Lawns matches the tone of Bley’s wistful ballad from her 1987 Sextet album. It’s succeeded by Ad Infinitum, initially released by Art Farmer’s quartet in 1965 and later on Bley’s Dinner Music. Olhos De Gato (Portuguese for Eyes Of A Cat) was co-written by Bley with Brazilian violinist Jorge Mautner and first released by Enrico Rava in 1972. It’s a poignant, slow tempo piece featuring exquisite clarinet from Nash.

Bley originally composed King Korn for Sonny Rollins. It’s been recorded by many artists and was first released in 1965 by Paul Bley’s trio on Footloose!. Bley later recorded the song in 1999 on her album Are We There Yet? with Steve Swallow. Nash leads the melody on soprano here. The title track, taken from Bley’s Sextet album, closes the set. It’s a slow, relaxed delivery with bluesy soloing from Cardenas and Nash on tenor.

The trio put their own stamp on Bley’s music whilst maintaining the essence of her artistry. Bley was sent the mastered tracks of Healing Power; we are informed that after listening intently for several minutes she condensed her approval into two words: “That’s me.”

Ida Lupino; Donkey; And Now The Queen; Ictus; Lawns; Ad Infinitum; Olhos De Gato; King Korn; Healing Power (44.52)
Steve Cardenas (g); Ted Nash (ts, ss, cl); Ben Allison (b). PA, USA, 11 & 12 June 2021.
Sunnyside Records SSC 1664