Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Personal appearances

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Acoustic piano and electric bass aren’t exactly natural-born partners. Carla Bley and Steve Swallow, on the other hand, hardly approach their respective instruments with anything resembling conventionality. Bley incorporates a gamut of influences in her open-minded, idiosyncratic playing, and one-time upright ace Swallow plucks with a pick, playing guitaristically on a five-string bass rigged with an extra high C string (rather than a low B).

In addition to those factors, the two think alike, plugging into each other’s playing organically for a warm, chamberlike sound amply demonstrated on Are We There Yet? The pair’s third outing as a duo, recorded during a 1998 European tour, opens with the playful, tail-chasing "Major" before slipping into the slow-grooving gospel blues of "A Dog’s Life" and then the melancholy of "Satie For Two," named for Bley’s major influence.

Kurt Weill’s "Lost in the Stars," tagged with a bit of "When You Wish Upon a Star," is pure elegance, and Thelonious Monk’s spirit comes through (yet again) on Bley’s "King Korn." Swallow’s gorgeous tone and sophisticated phrasing are front and center on the ever-shifting, trickling "Playing With Water," and the twisting "Musique Mécanique" is informed by Eastern European folk music.

Swallow and three of his quintet partners from 1996’s Deconstructed (trumpeter Barry Ries replaces Ryan Kisor) are heard on Always Pack Your Uniform on Top, culled from a week’s worth of performances last April at London’s famous Ronnie Scott nightclub.

The post-bop compositions are consistently inventive and so are the improvisations: Dig drummer Adam Nussbaum’s tricky rhythm display over the riff of "Bend Over Backward," Chris Potter’s earthy tenor sax expedition on the frenetic "Dog With a Bone" and Mick Goodrick’s thoughtful, fluid fretwork on altered bossa "Feet First" (and everything else). Swallow, who skips solos in favor of brilliant unaccompanied introductions on two pieces, includes charts of the music in the CD booklet. Nice touch.

Phillip Booth writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by Philip Booth

Most Popular

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 28, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation