Carla Bley / Andy Sheppard / Steve Swallow Anando el Tiempo
(2016, ECM Records)
Although during her 60-plus-year career Carla Bley has previously recorded in small settings, the Woodstock pianist and composer is first identified with the ambitious modern big band work of influential epics like 1971's Escalator Over the Hill and 1974's Tropic of Cancer. But that's fine: An artist who plays for keeps, which Bley surely is, revels in the opportunity to challenge and overturn expectations, which she surely does, on this set with saxophonist Andy Sheppard and her longtime life partner, bassist Steve Swallow. The moody Anando el Tiempo is the third outing by the threesome, after the comparatively playful Songs with Legs (1995) and Trios (2013).
The album's title comes from its opening suite of three pieces, written, Bley says, to represent stages of recovery from addiction and inspired by a friend's successful struggle. The first, "Sin Fin," is imbued with the air of reflective resignation that comes with an individual's acceptance of their condition; the wistful "Potación de Guaya," monochromatically brushed with Sheppard's yearning lines, evokes the "shared sorrow felt by everyone affected"; and the scale-climbing "Camino el Volver" conjures the jubilant reawakening of said addict's reemergence into the light. The album's remaining compositions are "Saints Alive!," another inward-looking interlude, this one home to beautifully sad solos by Swallow and Sheppard; and "Naked Bridges/Diving Brides," a devilish offering that contrasts Sheppard's wandering horn against the interlocking underpinning of Bley and Swallow. The sparse, gorgeous Anando el Tiempo is another fine item in Bley's oeuvre, and makes for perfect late-night or early morning company. Ecmrecords.com.