Carla Bley

Very Very Simple

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Watching music, rather than simply listening to it, can be a strange experience, at least when it comes to video releases of concert performances. (Music video, at its best, can be quite an art form; concert videos are something else altogether.) It's especially strange when it comes to classical or jazz performances. However, bearing with the strangeness of the experience is a distinct pleasure when it comes to Carla Bley, and especially when it's Bley and bassist Steve Swallow. This half-hour tape, originally released in Europe, doesn't entrance so much with the visual aspects (both Bley and Swallow are odd to look at, though) as with the gentle music -- drifting, embracing compositions that don't screw up the tension level. Nice stuff indeed. The treat, though, is the title number, the last of four, in which Bley and Swallow trade vocals on a song about why Steve Swallow doesn't do more vocals, and what they have to do when he does have a vocal: "Keep it very very simple, and also very low...." The affection of these two for each other pours out at that point, with the result that it's a hysterically funny performance in which neither party actually does all that much. An absolute delight.