Friday, December 25, 2020

A Bley In a Manger


I don't normally do Christmas music, but when it's this delicious there's little resistance.

There isn't much to say about its creator, except that she's still around and it's been, what? Sixty-something years since she first started selling cigarettes at Birdland?

Fast forward to now, and by sheer prolific power, she might be the single greatest female composer in Jazz history.

Is what she does strictly Jazz though? She is kind of her own genre, to tell the truth.

It doesn't matter; Carla Bley is a musician's musician and a composer's composer since before most of us were born.

These recordings date from a couple of Yuletide tours she did, the first in support of her CD of carols for piano, brass & the impeccably beautiful electric bass of Steve Swallow, her life partner.

We have a full broadcast from 2013, augmented by three bonus tracks from a 2008 performance; both are sourced from digital broadcasts and should toast your Yule Logs and chestnuts to perfection.


Carla Bley & Ed Partyka Brass
"Carla's Christmas Carols"
Gy├Ârgy-Ligety-Saal
Graz, Austria
12.5.2013

01 O Tannenbaum
02 Fernab in Einer Krippe
03 Jingle Bells
04 Hell's Bells
05 Jesus Maria
06 Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
07 The Christmas Song
08 O Holy Night/Joy to the World
09 Ring Christmas Bells
10 Silent Night and Day
11 God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
12 O Come to Bethlehem, All Ye Faithful

Total time: 1:14:38
Tracks 10-12 are bonus tracks from Passionskirche, Berlin DE 12.4.2008 FM

Tracks 01-09:
Carla Bley - piano
Steve Swallow - bass
Axel Schlosser - trumpet & flugelhorn
Bernhard Nolf - trumpet & flugelhorn
Adrian Mears - trombone
Ed Partyka - bass trombone & tuba
Linus Pernulli - French horn

Tracks 10-12:
Carla Bley - piano
Steve Swallow - bass
Tobias Weidinger - trumpet & glockenspiel
Axel Schlosser - trumpet
Christine Chapman - French horn
Adrian Mears - trombone
Ed Partyka - bass trombone & tuba

digital capture of a digital FM broadcast, with 3 bonus cuts from a 2008 performance in Berlin (also a digital capture of a digital FM broadcast)
converted to CD Audio 16/44 by EN, December 2020

Don't be fooled by the pictures that suggest Carla Bley is the Diamanda Galas of keyboards; this is some of the most gorgeous and serene recasting of well-worn Xmas fare ever attempted, and entirely appropriate for your grandparents -- or your contrapuntally-inclined hipster grandkids -- unwrapping their gifts around the tree.

I'll be back Monday, health willing, with something that couldn't be more different than this if you dyed its hair blue.

Don't sleep without visions of this 75 minutes of bliss dancing in your head, though... and of course I wish you all the brassiest of holidays, whatever your preferences for those might be.--J.