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Records

Records image
Parent Issue
Day
12
Month
July
Year
1974
OCR Text

Carla Bley and Michael Mantler are two of the prime movers of the New York based Jazz Composers Orchestra Association. The JCOA is a non-profit organization intent on independence from the financial voracity (greed) of the giant record companies. Result: Artistic freedom from concept to marketing and a creative focus for many talented musicians. Tropic Appetites is Carla Bley's latest offering and includes her writing and arranging the words of Paul Haines. Haines also had a hand in the libretto of "Escalator Over the Hill," the god-jacketed magnum opus of the JCOA. Now to teil the truth, I wish these musicians would put their instruments in their mouths and quit singing for a while. Not that it sounds unpleasant. Not at all so. Ms. Bley's album features the supple voice of Julie Tippetts, familiar to most as Julie Driscoll, formerly with Brian Auger. There is a vibrato-less innocence to her style that fits well the meditative and restive feel of much of the music. The one troublesome aspect of their current work is that it is intent on offering us not only music, but spiritual and philosophic content as well. This can be a trifle embarassing in its penchant for the esoteric. Music is refreshing because it is languageless, direct and unambiguous. Thus, since the album is entitled Tropic Appetites, allow' me the liberty of requesting them to "hold the lyrics" on mine. To the music. Unequivocally stated, it is excellent. Ms. Bley has attempted to render the sultry sensuality of the eastern tropics and has succeeded masterfully. The rhythms are muscular and vital and allow ampie room for the virtuoso work of Gato Barbieri, Dave Holland, Paul Motian and Howard Johnson. Carla Bley wrote these compositions with her ear attuned to the droning lamentation of India's classical music. A facile arranger, she combines this preoccupation with blazing Latín rhythms and a creamy weaving of brass statements to make a music that is energetic and always original. Michael Mantler's album is entitled No Answer, and it is lifted from a passage of Samuel Beckett's novel, How It Is. In fact. the lyrics that accompany most of the music are from the same source. Though Beckett's photograph adorns the album jacket, there is no mention of a collaboration. Perhaps it is to be . oned with as a musical appreciation of the novel. Perhaps with reservations, as the idea itself is like making a musical comedy out of The Brothers Karamazov . It must be admitted that Beckett's prose in How It Is is hardly melodie or even faintly musical. vIt is whining; groaning with a wrinkled grin of weariness. Mantier has chosen the only "musical" tools that express this attitude. Monotonal melody, if there be such a thing. Music that recalls the approach of the ambling corpses in "Night of the Living Dead." It is grim, colorless and unfortunately, not usually interesting. Jack Bruce, another "Escalator" alumnus, plays bass and sings the novel. Trumpeter Don Cherry is not given the forum that a musician of his genius requires, and Carla Bley hammers out the bleak realities of her cold and toneless keyboard playing to fiU out the trio. The problem again is the relation of the text to musical composition. Indeed, Mantler's music "fits" the mood of isolation and raw fear that Beckett had created. Unfortunately, Mantier needed the text to bolster the music whereas Beckett was doing just fine on his own. Both of these albums are well worth your interest and support. I suggest you find these sides and listen to musicians who are willing to take risks for the sake of something new and immediate. We, as listeners, owe these people the patience and devotion that they invested as artists.