on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2016 14 Mai


von: Hans-Dieter Klinger Filed under: Blog | TB | 2 Comments



In den Manafonistas-Sedimenten ruht in der April-2016-Schicht ein Beitrag, den ich hier freilegen möchte. Dort regte Michael an, Please let me know your favourites consisting entirely of cover versions … no matter from which era. Zu meinen Favoriten zählt das Album The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu von Carla Bley. Die ersten 6 Tracks – das Banana Quintet – haben es in sich, für mich ist das eine Cover-Version der besonderen Art.

Carla Bley ist am 11. Mai 80 Jahre alt geworden. Zahlreiche Rundfunksendungen feiern eine lebende, eine lebendige Legende des Jazz. Das ist schön. Viele ihrer Freunde und Gefährten sind in den vergangenen Jahren gestorben: Paul Bley, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Gato Barbieri, Dewey Redman, Jack Bruce.

In meiner Jazz-Sammlung ist Keith Jarrett mit den meisten Alben vertreten, gefolgt von Miles Davis und dann doch tatsächlich von Carla und Paul Bley. Im REAL BOOK, das ich seit den 70er Jahren besitze und benütze, sind einige Stücke von Carla, darunter die sperrigen, skizzenhaften And Now The Queen und Ictus, denen nur Musiker vom Format eines Paul Bley gewachsen sind und die zugänglicheren Ida Lupino und Sing Me Softly Of The Blues, die ich gerne selbst spiele.

Wenige Tage vor ihrem Geburtstag erschien ihr neues ECM-Album. Das Trio mit Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Andy Sheppard – eine Besetzung, die an das Jimmy Giuffre Trio erinnert – fasziniert mich seit vielen Jahren. Es gibt eine Reihe von exzellenten Alben mit diesen Dreien: Songs With Legs (Aufnahmen einer Europa-Tournee aus dem Jahr 1994), die Lost Chords Alben (von denen ich jenes mit Paolo Fresu besonders liebe) und die letzten beiden ECM-Releases Trios und Andando El Tiempo.

Im Winter 2010 habe ich das Trio Live in Neuburg/Donau im „Birdland“ erlebt und konnte mit den Musikern sprechen. Der Eindruck war tief, ja schon meine Vorbereitung auf das Konzert war von besonderer Art, denn während der Fahrt nach Neuburg hörte ich erstmals die Banana Suite, die mich auch in Tagen danach intensiv beschäftigte – ein Anlass, nach Carla Bley’s Webseite zu suchen und per eMail meine Eindrücke mitzuteilen. Die höchst originelle Webseite wird von Carla’s Tochter Karen Mantler gestaltet. Ein Besuch lohnt sich!



—– Original Message —– From: „HDK“
Subject: Review Carla Bley Trio – Neuburg/Donau (Germany) – Something like fan post

Dear Warden,
looking around your wonderful, amazing, original prison, I discovered a leakage in the form of an email-link. So I decided to step in. Dear Warden, would you please be so kind and deliver this mail to Carla …

Es sind dann viele Wochen vergangen und ich rechnete nicht mehr mit einer Antwort, da traf doch noch Post ein:



Sorry for the slow reply. The prison was closed for the holidays. Thank you for your kind email. I will leave a copy of it in Carla’s cell. I’m sure she will enjoy having something to read.

Best Regards,

the Warden

Hier meine ‚Fan Post‘:

… Dear Mrs. Carla Bley,

perhaps you don’t remember our conversation after your great Birdland Club recital on Friday 26th November 2010. The concert was one of the most impressive I ever listened to. It was both for the heart and for the brain, it was humorous, romantic, weird, funny, ironical, magic as well and full of obvious or hidden allusions (
Sidewinder in Paradise  etc.). I told you already in Neuburg what I felt – especially during the calm and balladic tunes: „This is life protecting music, you can’t die during listening to this music“ – obvious, because Death is listening too and then forgets to do his job.

I like your compositions very much since I met your music for the first time in the early seventies when I bought A Genuine Tong Funeral and some more early records of the Gary-Burton-Quartet (with Larry Coryell, Steve and Bob Moses). Should you be named „Thelonia Bley“ it wouldn’t be inappropriate. Your ideas are often equally scrubby, intricate and charming like those of Thelonious.

I also appreciate your piano playing: no note too much, no note too little. That makes your piano playing lucid but at the same time fragile. Andy is a true virtuoso, tasteful, colorful, sensible – the perfect counterpoint in your Trio. Steve plays wonderful and the sound of his instrument is breathtaking. It’s fine, that He Is Your Pal.

As I told you already, I purchased The Lost Chords and The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu one day before your Neuburg gig. I thought that just now the time has come to listen to this music, quasi as „preparation“ for the concert on Friday 26th November. Because I had to drive by car about 250 km in order to reach my destination, I put on some in-ear-phones (the vehicle’s noise was locked out) and listened attentively to the ‚Banana‘ pieces. During Two Banana I thought by myself: „there is something below the skin of this fruit which I know – but what the hell is it ???“ I couldn’t solve the enigma at once and proceeded to Three Banana – a piece beyond suspicion for the moment. And then Four: oh! the same strange fruit like Two Banana. And suddenly: … UH! … The Beatles’ Abbey Road, last track on side A: the bass riff in 6/8-meter. I sang it along with Four – oh dear, that was terrible difficult because of persistantly changing keys (I didn’t grasp the principle). But shortly after I had finished my gruesome sing song I heard the riff explicitly twice – maybe played by your left hand or both hands. The title of the Beatles Song is I Want You (She’s So Heavy). Now I tried out to sing along this riff to Two Banana. It worked comfortably, because it remains a long time in D minor. The Theme of Three Banana is dominated by the riff’s first group of three tones, stepping down in semitones after the initial ascend.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to recognize any relation between the riff and One Banana and Five Banana. So I decided to ask you after the concert – should there be any chance for. Luckily it so happened. I thought, I won’t tell you any news and was surprised, that you didn’t know exactly the origin of the riff: you guessed Led Zeppelin could be the inventor. Anyway … you called me a „detective“.

Driving home from Neuburg I felt like a restless cat in the night. I was eager to solve the mystery of Carla’s „Enigma Variations“. And – listening to Five Banana – I suddenly realized that Five is the only one Banana written in 5/4-meter. Could it be that digit 5 is an important attribute? I returned to Four and counted the number of bars of the 6/8-riff. Oh, wonderful: a cycle of 5 measures. And after all: Two Banana, Three Banana & Four ground on the same 5-bar-riff.

Finally One Banana More: Andy and Steve are starting with a 6-bar-cycle (descending melody). When Paolo joines, you can count 5-bar-cycles until the end of the piece. Each period has its own physiognomy and the tune actually beames you back to One Banana – if you like Ad Infinitum. And thus, maybe, you gradually become a „Banana In Paradise“ …

Thank you once more for the great emotional experience and for the funny brainstorm you inflamed in my head.


Zu meiner Überraschung (und Freude) erhielt ich nach einem weiteren Monat Post von Steve Swallow.

—– Original Message —– From: „Stephen W Swallow“
Subject: Carla Bley

Dear Mr. Klinger,

I am writing on behalf of Carla Bley, who is chained to her desk, finishing some big band music under extreme pressure of deadline. She has asked me to let you know that she is very grateful for your sympathetic, focused and perceptive attention to her music.

You’ve caught a remarkable number of her intentions – your thoughts about the Banana Quintet are exactly to the point. Carla remarked to me that she writes for an abstract, ideal listener who „gets“ everything she puts into the music, with no expectation that this listener actually exists. It was a wonderful shock to her to find a real-life listener out there who is actually apprehending so much of what she has put into the music.

Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts with her (and with me as well). You should know that it means a great deal to Carla. Composers work in isolation and are seldom blessed with the sense that their work is being heard and understood. We hope we’ll find the opportunity to play music for you again someday; meanwhile, we wish you all the best.

Sincerely, Steve Swallow (Carla too)


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  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Great stories! Great reading! Great music! The new Carla Bley trio album lives up to the brilliance of the last one. Gregs and me have a common favourite track there, piece no. 2. But the whole album is brilliant.

    Grüsse von einer Reise nach Frankreich, im Auto ist auch Carla mit von der Partie, das neue Album – und das Ziel der Reise: nach Strasbourg einige Wasserfälle im Burgund …

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Mit Jans „Niagara“ kann ich nicht mithalten, aber dafür geht es um drei Wasserfälle, unter die man sich frühmorgens mutterseelenallein stellen kann, im Wasser, no kidding …

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