From start to finish this show gave me a great deal of pleasure. It felt like a welcome antidote to our present era. The trio started almost exactly on time and performed a short but near perfect set. The room was packed. The compositions, all from Bley, included “Bananas 3," “Wildlife” and the opener, “Copy Cat.” “Copy Cat,” a new composition that the group would be recording in a few weeks, was so good that I am already looking forward to its release. At 82 years of age, Bley is still composing wonderful music. Thankfully, this band’s reason for being was clear throughout the performance: they exist to put emphasis on the work of one of our greatest composers.
The performance was as comfortable as lounging in a warm pool. The comfortable feeling is probably because this is trio of such long standing. Swallow and Bley have been married since 1991. The trios players have been together in different combinations, including under the name The Lost Chords, since at least 1987. Andy Sheppard is a saxophonist of great nuance. Each note he plays is expresses of the composition’s intent. His soprano sax work reminds me of the master, Steve Lacy, who was able to get inside a tune both emotionally and cerebrally. The same could be said for all three players tonight. Few bass players invest their performances with as much content as Steve Swallow. The evening ended with the group performing the only cover of the night, Monk’s Mysterioso. Knowing that composition well I could more easily see the flow of the music between the players. It was a storybook ending for such a night – and the kind of performance that earns the panegyrics that have followed Carla Bley since the 1960s.
A word about the room, The Jazz Standard is a great Jazz venue with clear sound and mostly good sight-lines. The food is good, something you rarely find in jazz clubs. This club actually adds something positive to the listening experience.