Perspectives: Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Andy Sheppard – National Concert Hall – 25-05-17 – Live Review
Find out more about the Perspectives Series here.
How do you hope to celebrate your 80th birthday? How does touring the world with a jazz trio sound! Carla Bley celebrated becoming an octogenarian with style. Now aged 81, the pianist took to the stage of the John Field room along with her husband and contemporary; bassist Steve Swallow (76) and young whipper-snapper saxophonist Andy Sheppard (60).
Bley made her name in the free Jazz movement of the 1960s, and with her Jazz Opera ‘Escalator over the Hill’ which was released in 1971. She was recently awarded a National Endowment for Arts Jazz Master (2016) and is recognised as one of the innovators of the art form.
The trio arrived on stage a little after 8pm to much excitement. Steve Swallow said a few words to begin the night and discussed the Perspective series of concerts, saying the gigs were connected by a way of thinking rather than by musical style. He also noticed how diverse the audience was, saying we were not all wearing berets and clicking our fingers any more! It was far too hot for a beret.
They opened with a brand new song ‘Beautiful Phone’, which was so new the ink was barely dry, according to Steve. They made the touching move of dedicating the piece to their new President; Donald Trump, and I’m sure he appreciated the gesture. The second piece was ‘The National Anthem’, which is the centre piece of her 2003 album ‘Looking for America’. The piece uses the American National Anthem ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as a reoccurring phrase that drifts in and out of the piece.
They then moved away from the political slant with Copy Cat, which was a long meditative piece. It allowed Sheppard to show his range on the Tenor sax, with some powerful playing showing the rumbling depths and soothing tones.
They finished the set with a long piece from the 2015 album, Andando el Tiempo, which is a tale of addiction and recovery, with the instruments showing the heights and depths of dependency. After taking their bows, Carla and Steve left hand in hand, with the gooseberry Andy following shortly after. They returned for a relatively brief encore before leaving us for good.
There is an impressive dynamic with the band, they are all hugely talented musicians in their own right and their many years playing together mean they seem relaxed and composed as a unit. Swallow’s 5-string electric bass was plucked with dazzling dexterity meaning you hardly notice the lack of drums in this arrangement. Bley’s piano playing gives structure to the trio, allowing Andy Sheppard to provide the flourishes. It was a rare treat to have them in Dublin, they are masters of their craft making little of traditional age barriers.