Carla Bley 'Trios'

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Last Show: Thursday 1 st June 2017

PizzaExpress Jazz Club (Soho)

'Trios' is the first of Carla Bley’s albums to be recorded directly for ECM. Although she has been part of the larger ECM story for forty years, and although much of her life’s work – documented on JCOA and WATT – has been distributed through ECM channels, Trios marks only the second time that Carla Bley and producer Manfred Eicher have been in the studio together - the first occasion being the 1982 recording of Charlie Haden’s The Ballad of the Fallen, for which Carla played piano and wrote arrangements.

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"distilled, playful, leisurely magic"

John Fordham - The Guardian London

Carla Bley was born in Oakland, California in 1936. Her father Emil Borg, a piano teacher and church organist, began giving her music lessons when she was three years old and she was soon playing at church functions. But her musical education ended at the age of eight. Her formal education stopped entirely when she dropped out of high school after completing the
tenth grade.

During her adolescence Carla was drawn to jazz and moved to New York City to be closer to the musicians she admired. She resumed her musical education by working as a cigarette girl at the notorious Birdland jazz club, where she was able to hear the greatest jazz musicians of the day. She met pianist Paul Bley and eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where Paul and his
quartet had a steady gig at the Hillcrest Club. She began to write music. When saxophonist Ornette Coleman came on the scene in the mid-fifties, Paul Bley immediately hired him and Carla was exposed nightly to ‘free’ playing, a powerful influence that was to affect her writing for many years.

Carla had been commissioned by the Serious Trust to write a piece for the Festival. She took this opportunity to present Andy
Sheppard, who had recently remarried, with a piece of music, Naked Bridges/Diving Brides, as a wedding present. It was premiered at an event for members and supporters of Serious Trust, and played again in a Trios concert the next night at Wigmore Hall.


An ECM recording artist, bandleader and composer, Andy Sheppard is one of Europe’s leading saxophonists and one of a very few British musicians to have made a significant impact on the international jazz scene, playing and writing for settings from solo to big band and chamber orchestra. Sheppard has composed over 350 works that incorporate a strong and characteristic sense of lyricism alongside a very personal use of rhythms from Asia, Africa and South America.

Sheppard has been invited to compose for large and small ensembles in the areas of jazz and contemporary classical music. His big band writing includes work with the renowned UMO Orchestra (Finland), the Bergen Big Band (Norway) – initially for a joint commission from Cheltenham and Vossa Festivals – Voice of the North and Jambone (UK).


Steve Swallow was born in New York City in 1940, and spent his childhood in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Before turning to the acoustic bass at age 14, he studied piano (with Howard Kasschau, who also taught Nelson Riddle) and trumpet. His otherwise miserable adolescence was brightened by his discovery of jazz. He took many of his first stabs at improvisation with Ian Underwood (who subsequently became a Mother Of Invention and an L.A. studio ace), with whom he attended a swank New England private school. During his years at Yale University he studied composition with Donald Martino, and played dixieland with many of the greats, among them Pee Wee Russell, Buck Clayton and Vic Dickenson. In 1960 he met Paul and Carla Bley, left Yale in a hurry, moved to New York City, and began to tour and record with Paul Bley, The Jimmy Giuffre Trio and George Russell’s sextet, which featured Eric Dolphy and Thad Jones. He also performed in the early ‘60s with Joao Gilberto, Sheila Jordan, and bands led by Benny Goodman, Marian McPartland, Chico Hamilton, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer, and Chick Corea.

Band Lineup

Carla Bley (piano)

Andy Sheppard (tenor sax, soprano sax)

Steve Swallow (bass)