A striking album of new music from pianist/composer Carla Bley, whose trio with Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow is now in its 25th year. Individual associations among the players go back much further: bassist Swallow first recorded music by Carla in 1961. So when Bley says “Life Goes On”, a lot of life is alluded to. The album, realized in the Auditorio Stelio Molo Studio in Lugano in May 2019, with Manfred Eicher producing, takes the form of three suites.
The title piece begins as a stoical blues, at first melancholic then hopeful. “Beautiful Telephones”, inspired by a US president’s first observation on entering the Oval Office, has plenty of Bley’s dark wit. And “Copycat” explores the notion of call-and-response in fresh ways as the improvisers continue each other’s thoughts. Throughout, Carla’s distinctive piano, with its hints of Monk and Satie, is beautifully framed by Swallow’s eloquent, elegant bass guitar and Sheppard’s yearning saxes. This trio has a unique collective sound, reflecting – as The Telegraph recently noted – “musical mastery of a rare order”.