On Fleur Carnivore, pianist Carla Bley deftly integrates her beautiful melodies into five complex, yet effortless sounding pieces. Taken from 1988 live dates at Copenhagen's Montmartre club, Carnivore spotlights Bley's very accomplished big band, which includes, amongst several others, trumpeter Lew Soloff, alto saxophonist Wolfgang Pusching, trombonist Gary Valente, tenor saxophonist Andy Sheppard, and organist/harmonica player Karen Mantler (Bley's daughter). The title track is a romantically bittersweet ballad swinger, which includes impassioned solos from Pusching and Soloff, while, in nice contrast, there's the buoyant, Latin-tinged "Song of the Eternal Waiting of Canute," featuring rousing solos by Valente and tenor saxophonist Christof Lauer. In addition to these extended pieces, there is the suite composition, "The Girl Who Cried Champagne (Parts 1/2/3)." This breezily swinging bossa nova features meaty tenor work from Sheppard and a minimalist harmonic solo by Mantler. Rounding out the set are the whimsical "Ups and Downs" and the gospel R&B tune "Healing Power." Combining surprising arrangements and pop song melodies, Bley creates a unique jazz language, setting herself apart from both traditionalist bandleaders (Wynton Marsalis, Thad Jones) and more avant-garde stylists (Muhal Richard Abrams, George Russell). Fleur Carnivore is one of Bley's best titles and good place to start for newcomers.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook