When: Sunday, June 2, 7 p.m.
Where: Raven Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg
Tickets: $75 Gold | $55 General (Reserved seating)
10% discount for members starting at Jazz Supporter level
The paradox of Carla Bley – 82 and going strong – is that while she is inimitable, she is also influential. The composer/arranger/pianist and NEA Jazz Master has been writing music since the late 1950s when her then-husband Paul Bley started performing her compositions on piano. These early tunes, according to ECM Records founder Manfred Eicher (who produced Carla’s two recent releases, Andando el Tiempo and Trios), are “each as well crafted as pieces by Satie or Mompou – or Thelonious Monk for that matter. Carla belongs in that tradition of radical originality.”
(Manfred, believe it or not, uttered those words to the pianist Ethan Iverson, who published the quote in a great article on Carla for the New Yorker. This is the same Ethan who is sharing the Raven Theater bill with Carla’s trio as part of the ECM 50th birthday celebrations at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival)
An NEA Jazz Master, Carla has been a lynchpin of some significant events in the jazz world, from organizing the Jazz Composer’s Guild in New York in 1964 to leading the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra which released the dramatic triple-disc set Escalator Over the Hill to composing, arranging, and playing on Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra album in 1969 and its follow-ups The Ballad of the Fallen in 1982, Dream Keeper in 1990, and Not in Our Name in 2005 – then assuming the piano chair and conductor role in that orchestra after the great bassist died in 2014. Carla’s songs have been performed by George Russell, Jimmy Guiffre, Gary Burton, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Art Farmer, Steve Lacy, NRBQ, Tony Williams, Jaco Pastorius, and many others.
While ECM has distributed most of Carla’s recorded output beginning 40 years ago, Trios from 2013 was the first of her albums to be produced by Manfred and issued by the label. With her life partner Steve Swallow on bass and the lyrical Andy Sheppard on saxophone, Trios offers new versions of four previously recorded Carla compositions that Manfred selected for the release. It is a bliss-inducing collection that is something like receiving the cheese plate at the greatest restaurant you ever attended. You don’t want it to end, and when it does you start it over. In contrast, Andando el Tiempo, featuring the same personnel, is primarily a three-part suite in Spanish music forms based on Carla’s observations of a friend who went through the painful process of recovering from addiction. Her pianism here is crystalline and elegiac, in celestial balance with her bandmates’ playing. These three musicians have been playing together for over 20 years. Frankly, the opportunity to see them live is a gift.
Ethan Iverson and Mark Turner Duo
The ECM aesthetic seems tailor-made for pianist Ethan Iverson and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. On their album Temporary Kings the two go for an unadorned, efficient sound mostly grounded in the cool jazz typified by Lee Konitz, Lennie Tristano, and Warne Marsh. It is an approach, you could say, where emotion is accessed via the intellect.
Turner and Iverson, who have been members of the Billy Hart Quartet since 2005 (with two albums on ECM), seem thoroughly in sync musically and philosophically, and ECM founder/producer Manfred Eicher is right there with them. The jazz is intensely focused, no frills, and frequently hard driving. Ethan was a member of the Bad Plus – a band that tilted jazz on its axis a bit starting in the early aughts – until a year ago when he went solo and took his disruptive ethos with him. He has one of the most identifiable piano sounds in jazz, one that is never rushed and always fresh.
Mark, who made an ear-opening album on ECM in 2014 called Lathe of Heaven, is high in demand for his dueling ability to project power and restraint simultaneously – much like Wayne Shorter or Sam Rivers. With Manfred adjusting the lighting in the cathedral of Temporary Kings, Mark and Ethan do a dance like stealthy cats, circling, feinting, advancing, ultimately finding accord within the sinewy melodies each of them brings. Considering the playfulness of jazz doyenne Carla Bley, with whom they are sharing the Raven marquee as part of the ECM celebration, it should be a really provocative evening.