Peace and meaning in the wild
Bill Ewing | Arlington, VA USA | 06/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Snap your fingers, contort your body in pleasure, bow to unbelievable virtuosity, yeah, yeah, all jazz albums do that -- the ante is sky-high, these days. But turn a briar of brambles into a rosebed, that's a real accomplishment. Carla Bley starts with material that would challenge John Cage -- unexpected chords, abrupt transitions. She stuffs it into a blues mold and floats it on a river of lush big-band harmony. Soaring above it, Lew Soloff's trumpet mouths words of timeless truth, and when you reach the summit, Gary Valente pokes you -- tickles you with his trombone, reminding you that underneath it all, you are simple, primitive, garish, bold, gutteral, human. It's a religious experience: Carla's Catholic setting, Soloff our deft Buddha, Gary the black Baptist with the raspy voice. This album "hangs together" more than the average Bley album, musical references go back and forth, and they poke fun at the "Home of the Brave" and "Santa Clause is coming to town". Musicologists love that stuff, and why not? It's magnificently done. It's also perhaps the most consistently good Bley album -- rarely boring, always in tune. But what really turns me on is Carla's usual trump card: she writes material that brings out more character from Lew and Gary and Andy and Wolfgang than even they could have thought possible. Carla pulls their souls out through their instruments, exorcises you, then swaps your soul for theirs, in a transfusion of joyous energy. You don't listen to Carla Bley; you are reborn through her. And yeah, you snap your fingers!"