This set begins with the piano laying down the bass line for a simple blues. Before the last note of each phrase there is a tiny hesitation, just long enough for you to anticipate what the note might or might not be. It’s maddening! By the end of 12 bars your ears will be glued to that repeated phrase. Sly details and a dry wit – that’s Carla Bley. Not that you’re obliged to stay on the alert for such minutiae. This trio, with bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard, does what all good jazz does; it carries on a musical discourse which it invites you to follow. Here, it’s warm, spirited and even funny.
One section of the three-part suite called Beautiful Telephones (an obscure reference to Donald Trump) manages to incorporate brief snatches of Hail to the Chief, You’re a Grand Old Flag and various other patriotic American tunes, concluding with the last four bars of My Way. The most fascinating of these pieces is the three-part Copycat, in which all three indulge in an ingenious melodic chase, revealing their extraordinary musicianship and perfect unity of approach.