Without a hint of compromise, pianist Carla Bley--inspired by bebop, jazz's avant-garde, Charles Ives, and Kurt Weill--carved a unparalleled niche for herself by contributing thoughtful compositions to others' bands (Gary Burton, ex-husband Paul Bley, even rockers NRBQ). Bley also led groups ranging from trios to orchestras, formed her own record label, and, like Duke Ellington, wrote and arranged in accordance with her collaborators' skills. This edition of the RARUM series presents a fascinating, diverse cross-section of her decade-spanning work, including a tune performed by an early-1960s Jimmy Giuffre Trio.
While some jazz artists can exude a notable seriousness, Bley is possessed by an impish sense of fun and irreverence--note the endearingly satirical "Baseball" and "More Brahms." But Bley also combines beauty and humor ("Fleur Carnivore," for big band), is more than capable of writing abstract and cerebral ("Ictus"), and mixes art-song with pop and folk ("Why," sung by Linda Ronstadt). As a bonus, this set features appearances by many jazz greats--including Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Steve Swallow, and John McLaughlin--who have contributed to Bley's unique vision.