Saturday, May 11, 2024

WATT Prophet


Carla Bley - Blunt Object

We continue the Merry Month with -- can you believe it? -- the second post about a female in a row! At this rate, I'll have to turn in my Sausagefest badge and quit eating tube steak.

Today's madwoman would have been 88 today, had she not had the audacity to pass away last October after a career in music like no other.

Born in Oakland, California -- where else? -- she started her singular journey as, of all things, a cigarette girl at Birdland in the 1950s.

There she met pianist Paul Bley, and they were married soon after. And divorced soon after that. Around 1960, she began to have her compositions recorded by other artists, eventually helping form the Jazz Composers' Orchestra with her next husband -- trumpet star Michael Mantler -- in 1964.

To have an outlet for their recordings and those of the other JCOA artists, the two formed JCOA Records. This gave way to their seminal WATT label, which became distributed by Manfred Eicher's ECM and became home to a whole passel of unbelievable LPs in the 1970s and '80s.

As gifted a composer as almost any of the last 60 years, her stuff is really down to her eccentric and one-of-a-kind tunes, which straddle just about every conceivable genre and flavor.

The first time I ever remember becoming aware of Carla Bley -- born this day in 1936 -- was on the seminal TV show Night Music in the late 1980s, when she blew everyone's mind alongside Bootsy Collins in an epic and bizarrely unforgettable segment.

I've covered her before, but since she left this realm I made up my mind I was going to do so again when her next birthday came around.

One of the most bootlegged Jazz artists ever to swing it, for some reason Carla Bley was featured in a million radio concerts over her lengthy career.

I must have 50 shows of hers, mostly from European radio. But my favorite one is this one, taped off the BBC almost 40 years ago and featuring some of her funkiest songs.

Look out for bass brahmin Steve Swallow here, who slathers his slinky-toned sounds all over the place and gives it all a slithery, supple kind of low end as only he could do.

Carla Bley
Bracknell Jazz Festival
South Hill Park Arts Centre
Bracknell, UK

01 Pink Panther Theme
02 Antidote
03 Blunt Object
04 Misterioso
05 Light or Dark
06 Night Glo
07 Fleur Carnivore
08 Joyful Noise
09 Song Sung Long

Total time: 1:20:45
disc break goes after Track 04, or this can be slightly overburned

Carla Bley - keyboards & organ
Michael Mantler - trumpet
Ray Anderson - trombone
John Clark - French horn
Earl McIntire - tuba & bass trombone
Steve Slagle - alto & soprano saxophones, flute & clarinet
Tony Dagradi - tenor saxophone & flute
Ted Saunders - keyboards & organ
Steve Swallow - bass
Victor Lewis - drums

PsyKies' off-air, 1st gen VHS tape of the complete, original 1986 BBC Radio 3 FM broadcast
slightly edited, denoised, retracked & remastered by EN, May 2024
531 MB FLAC/direct link

I'll continue dancing about the Maypole next Thursday, with some wicked shit I have cooked up to celebrate a milestone percussion person, so all you Fusioneers better get your hi-hats a-snatching on The One in preparation.

Today, however, we tribute the fantastic Carla Bley, who'da been 88 just like the keys on her piano today!--J.

5.11.1936 - 10.27.2023

1 comment:

  1. Tony Dagradi is still alive and kickin' in New Orleans. He performs somewhat infrequently with his modern jazz band, Astral Project, who got started right about the time as this concert. Astral Project has several lps out, and some are on the usual stream services. Thanks for Ms. Bley.