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Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow: Trios

Carla Bley’s reputation as an important composer and arranger is based on her work with larger ensembles. Trios is a glimpse into her aesthetic world stripped to its barest essentials.

“Les Trois Lagons (d’après Henri Matisse)” was inspired by three plates from Matisse’s Jazz, a book of cutouts. On Bley’s album 4X4, from 2000, it is rendered in subtly shifting layers and austere, stealth harmonies by an octet including piano, organ and four horns. Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow were in that octet, but on Trios they are all alone with Bley’s piano. No layers are possible, only open-ended implications and the stark designs created by three very different instrumental voices juxtaposed in space.

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