Album: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow, Trios (ECM)

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The Independent Culture

It's been a while since a new album by 77-year-old pianist/composer Carla Bley felt like an event. While Trios does not represent any great departure from her usual strategies, there's a purity of purpose here that, coupled with Manfred Eicher's uncluttered production, results in a cool, clear aesthetic statement that is very effective.

The material includes re-recordings of older pieces such as "Vashkar", "The Girl Who Cried Champagne" and "Les Trois Lagons (d'après Henri Matisse)", and while Bley's spare, Monk-ish pianism and Andy Swallow's guitar-like bass-playing are outstanding, the real star is saxophonist Steve Sheppard, who excels on both slow, impeccably controlled melody lines and full-on passion.