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Bley in church: Great acoustics, hot solos

The Carla Bley Big Band Goes to Church
The Carla Bley Big Band Goes to Church
By the Carla Bley Big Band

ECM Records: 1997


This review first appeared in the April 25, 1997 edition of the North County Times.

Carla Bley in church? She of the wild hair and even wilder avant-garde jazz?

Well, sort of. Her latest release was recorded live at the Chiesa San Francesco Al Prato in Perugia, Italy, of all places. However, it's not really religious music, excepting a cover of Carl Ruggles' "Exaltation" and Bley's own "Religious Experience."

Instead, the majority of the music here is what might best be described as symphonic jazz – with that usual Bley out-thereness. Still, this isn't so far removed from Count Basie's late-1960s band: lots of solid ensemble work, hot solos, great piano.

And the acoustics of the Chiesa San Francesco Al Prato are fantastic – the sound quality on this release is better than most studio recordings.