JJ 01/94: Carla Bley/Steve Swallow – Go Together

Thirty years ago, Michael Tucker longed for some OP-style swinging exuberance to offset the supper-club blandness of Bley's writing. First published in Jazz Journal January 1994

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I’ve long enjoyed Bley’s reflec­tive, intelligently turned composi­tions and watch-out-for-the-wild-card arrangements. While the for­mer qualities are in evidence here, the arrangements – and playing – are sometimes disap­pointingly bland, predictable to the point of supper-club smooth­ness. The opening Blues mixes tempi and dynamics nicely; there’s a welcome touch of Monkish astringency in Royalties and Doctor, and the Evans-ish lyricism of Douce rewards atten­tion.

Elsewhere, however, both the pianism and near-piccolo bass lines are too even-handed for my taste, the Latin ambiance – which dominates Swallow’s three-part Masquer­ade – a touch too suavely sus­tained. I’d have willingly swopped the 24 inner sleeve try-outs for publicity photos – osten­sibly documenting how bad poor Carla and Steve are at that sort of thing – for 24 seconds of the sort of swinging, gutsy exuberance which used to get Oscar Peterson a bad name among some critics.

Discography

Sing Me Softly Of The Blues; Mother Of The Dead Man; Masquerade In Three Parts: Car­nation / Dark Glasses / Mustache; Ad Infinitum; Copyright

Royalties; Peau Douce; Doctor; Fleur Carnivore (52.53)

Carla Bley (p); Steve Swallow (elb). Willow, New York, summer 1992

(Watt 24)