And a good time was had by all
Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 06/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jazz is generally not Serious Music. When it takes itself too seriously, it often becomes either too esoteric or too academic, rendering it nearly unlistenable to all but esthetes and poseurs (of which the jazz world has no shortage). It works better when there's a playful element balancing serious intentions. Carla Bley's wonderful disc 4 x 4 is a case in point. Laced with musical mischief, playfulness, and gentle deconstruction, it's smart, hip, and lively without sounding in the least pretentious or condescending. It's also full of sly pop-culture references, such as the quote from "Strangers in Paradise" at the end of "Sidewinders in Paradise." But it's all done with such lightheartedness and aplomb that there's no posturing, just good fun. There's also a lot of smart playing. I especially like Andy Shepherd's swinging solo on part one of "Les Trois Lagons." Shepherd, a brilliant young English tenor saxophonist and bandleader of note, is not much heard or regarded on this side of the Atlantic. I also like Steve Swallow's lead electric bass playing on part two of the same number. Larry Goldings on organ also impresses throughout. I really like this eight-member unit, pared down from her usual big band. There's a nimbleness and flexibility here lacking in the larger ensemble.Perhaps not the most important jazz album, but still lot's of good listening here."