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jueves, 1 de octubre de 2015

Carla Bley - Escalator Over The Hill (1971)


Artista: Carla Bley and Paul Haines & The Jazz Composer's Orchestra
Álbum: Escalator Over The Hill
Año: 1971
Género: Jazz Fusión
Duración: 78:12
Nacionalidad: EEUU


Lista de Temas:
Disk 1:
1. Hotel Overture
2. This Is Here...
3. Like Animals
4. Escalator Over The Hill
5. Stay Awake
6. Ginger And David
7. Song To Anything That Moves
8. EOTH Theme
9. Businessmen
10. Ginger And David Theme
11. Why
12. It's Not What You Do
13. Detective Writer Daughter
14. Doctor Why
15. Slow Dance (Transductory Music)
16. Smalltown Agonist
Disk 2:
1. End Of Head
2. Over Her Head
3. Little Pony Soldier
4. Oh Say Can You Do?
5. Holiday In Risk
6. Holiday In Risk Theme
7. A.I.R. (All India Radio)
8. Rawalpindi Blues
9. End Of Rawalpindi
10. End Of Animals
11. ... And It's Again

Alineación:
Orchestra (& Hotel Lobby Band):
- Carla Bley / Piano
- Jimmy Lyons / Saxo alto
- Gato Barbieri / Saxo tenor
- Chris Woods / Saxo barítono
- Dewey Redman / Saxo alto en "Little Pony..."
- Michael Mantler, Enrico Rava / Trompetas
- Roswell Rudd, Sam Burtis, Jimmy Knepper / Trombones
- Jack Jeffers / Trombón bajo
- Bob Carlisle, Sharon Freeman / Trompas
- John Buckingham / Tuba
- Perry Robinson / Clarinete
- Nancy Newton / Viola
- Karl Berger (vibráfono en "Litle Pony..."
- Charlie Haden / Bajo
- John McLaughlin / Guitarra
- Paul Motian / Batería
- Roger Dawson / Congas
- Bill Morimando / Campanas, celeste
Jack's Traveling Band:
- Carla Bley / Órgano
- John McLaughlin / Guitarra
- Jack Bruce / Bajo
- Paul Motian / Batería
Desert Band:
- Carla Bley / Órgano
- Don Cherry / Trompeta
- Souren Baronia / Clarinete, dumbec
- Leroy Jenkins / Violin
- Calo Scott / Violonchelo
- Sam Brown / Guitarra
- Ron McClure / Contrabajo
- Paul Motian / Percusión, dumbec
Original Hotel Amateur Band:
- Carla Bley / Piano
- Michael Snow / Trompeta
- Michael Mantler / Trombón de válvula
- Howard Johnson / Tuba
- Perry Robinson, Peggy Imig / Clarinete
- Nancy Newton / Viola
- Richard Youngstein / Bajo
- Paul Motian / Batería
Phantom Music:
- Carla Bley / Órgano, celeste, calliope
- Michael Mantler / Piano preparado
- Don Preston / Sintetizador Moog
Vocalistas Principales:
- Jack Bruce / "Jack". Fue una de las primeras opciones de Carla Bley, y un gran acierto. En este disco, canta mejor que nunca.
- Tod Papageorge: "Cecil Clark". Vocalista aficionado, es en realidad el fotografo de las sesiones de grabación.
- Linda Ronstadt: "Ginger". Esta cantante norteamericana no era todavía tan conocida como llegaría a serlo unos años después, pero ya había cosechado algún que otro éxito con algunos de sus singles.
- Jeanne Lee: "Ginger II". Fantástica vocalista y compositora de jazz norteamericana.
- Don Preston: "Doctor", "Lion". Miembro de los Mothers Of Invention de Frank Zappa. Cuenta Carla Bley que tuvo que convencerlo para que accediera a cantar.
- Carla Bley: "Leader", "Mutant", "Voice"
- Paul Jones: "David" . Actor y cantante británico que se ofreció a cantar en la obra, debido a su pasión por la música de Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra.
- Viva: "Viva". Una de las musas de Andy Warhol, famosa, entre otras cosas, por sus escenas de sexo en la película "Blue Movie".
- Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Steve Ferguson, Bill Leonard, Bob Stewart, Karen Mantler, Roswell Rudd, Sheila Jordan, Rosalind Hupp, Jane Blackstone, Howard Johnson, Timothy Marquand, Perry Robinson / Vocalistas secundarios

¿Jazz en Opposition? ¿Ópera Jazz? ¿Jazz ecléctico? ¿Avant Garde? Sea lo que sea, éste es un discazo:
Entre 1968 y 1971 la pianista, arreglista y compositora Carla Bley, concibió, escribió, grabó y produjo el primer disco conceptual de la historia; una especie de pseudo-ópera con trazos de rock, jazz, música de vodeville, cabaret, poesía beat e improvisación colectiva. Originalmente editado como un triple LP, “Escalator Over The Hill” sobrevivió a la prueba del tiempo con sus más de 2 y media horas de música y sus más de 40 músicos participantes. (vease la calidad de los mùsicos) Este albùm, el primero, es sin duda unos de sus màs grandes trabajos de su carrera.



¿Vieron quienes participan en esta obra?: John McLaughlin, Gato Barbieri, Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Don Preston y muchos muchos más. Imperdible...


Quizás el único disco del sello ECM catalogado en Progarchives (ojo, no sé, ahora que lo pienso, no creo que sea el único, aunque fue lo primero que pensé cuando lo ví reseñado en Progarchives). No hay mucho en la red de Carla Bley...
Un disco que va a reventar la cabeza a más de uno, un trabajo excepcional, y aclaro que tomo en cuenta lo que dice el siguiente comentario sacado de Progarchives. Con ustedes, buceadores de mezclas de estilos, el primer disco de un estilo único: el "JIO", o "Jazz en Opposition"....


Jazz in opposition?
This somewhat early album from Carla Bley is one of her excursions into the realm of musical theater. The words were written by Paul Haines. While I must admit that I enjoy the lyrics in the context of each song, I never had the patience to attempt to figure out what is going on in the story.
Musically, Bley divides her big band into subsets, with some players bleeding over into different groupings. Primarily, there's the big band. Her compositions for the group are mostly extremely avant garde, often reminding me of groups like Henry Cow or the Art Bears, but with more horns. But there are many tracks that feature John McLaughlin on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass, Paul Motian on drums, with Bley on keyboards. These tracks are electric fusion jams that electrify the album.
Other notables on the album, aside from a number of well known jazz greats, are Don Preston (around the end of his Mothers of Invention tenure) and, believe it or not, Linda Ronstadt.
This album is a treat for those with an adventurous spirit.
Scott


Disco rarísimo, una jazz fusión que tiene mucho de la experimentación del progresivo más vanguardista; eclecticismo a toda marcha para demoler estilos mientras se crean nuevas vetas sonoras, incluso extendiendo las posibilidades de los intrumentos, como un jazz a los Magma, o un Zappa suelto entre las composiones de la orquesta...


Cuando se editó, Escalator Over the Hill era el trabajo más largo concebido por el jazz (su longitud ha sido excedida, desde entonces, por las piezas recientes de Wynton Marsalis editadas en Blood On the Fields). El triple LP se convirtió en un viaje de egos masivos, de all-star que sin embargo, dieron a Carla Bley un prestigio inmenso entre el vanguardismo de la época.
Bley y el libretista Paul Haines lo llamaron un "chronotransduction", lo que sea que eso signifique. Los críticos lo llamaron una ópera del jazz. Escalator Over the Hill es, sin embargo, mucho más que algo de su tiempo, una tentativa atemporal de finales de los sesentas que ha repercutido en muchísimas influencias posteriores y que Bley no había podido concebir entonces. Hay música rock, sintetizadores de la época, la obligada sección india, brotes de cabaret de la república de Weimar en 3/4. El incomprensible “libretto” y la escritura lúgubre de las partes vocales del disco hacen pensar en un libro de textos de pretensión vanguardista. Pero este picadillo poco manejable se agrupa a veces en el melancólico “Hotel Overture" con solos del clarinetista Perry Robinson que rozan el chillido, el joven Gato Barbieri y su aporte al mando del saxofón, hasta la voz clara de Linda Ronstadt que canta encima de " Why", el trabajo de Don Cherry en la trompeta, y el poderoso trío John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce y Paul Motian siguiendo enérgicamente las líneas de las estructuras Indias y del blues en "Rawalpindi Blues".
Lanzado originalmente en tres LP, una extravagancia casi desconocida en 1971, hoy se ha ajustado esta reliquia muy confortablemente a dos CD. La música fue grabada entre noviembre de 1968 y junio de 1971. Paul Haines es un poeta de jazz mejor conocido por sus trabajos como letrista en este disco así como en el disco que le siguió: Tropic Appetites (1973).
Gulbis

Pero no me adelanto y traigo el texto de Carlos M. que es quien ha traído esta belleza extraña y desconocida para mis oídos... y que al escucharla se me hace música revolucionaria propia de un alma inquieta y que politiza el mejor de las artes al estilo Robert Wyatt... pero no sigo, el comentario es de Carlos, que por suerte no sólo aporta el disco sino me ayuda con los comentarios...

Este es otro de esos discos que escuche a mediados de los 70’s, y que en ese entonces o por lo menos el recuerdo que tengo es que era muy denso y complicado, supongo que el momento y la condicion de la escuchada, me dejo esa impresión, ( o mis oídos todavía no eran lo suficientemente flexibles para disfrutar la belleza mas profunda de la construcción musical ) pero ahora al revisarlo, es un disco con gran trabajo musical, mucha ironía y un manejo y mezcla de diversos géneros que finalmente no suenan como si fuera una ensalada y miras todo junto pero separado, es mas bien una mezcla de la casa con sabor personal.
Carla Bley es alguien que conoce de la materia sonora. En 1967 se propuso reconstruir la sensación que le dejó el disco del Sargento Pimienta, ese disquito de los Beatles, y le comenta a su amigo, el poeta Paul Hines por lo que éste le envía unos textos-poemas que finalmente y varios años después terminarían siendo parte de la obra “Escalator Over The Hill”. Algunos han mencionado este trabajo como una de las o la primera opera de jazz, aunque no es verdad esto, ya que no es una opera, pues no constituye una historia contada de forma linealmente convencional, es mas bien una obra conceptual o como ella la llama una "cronotransduccion", y por otro lado ya había operas en jazz, Ej. "Porgy and Bess" de Gershwin en 1935. pero a principio de los 70’s el jazz estaba mas en la escena mostrando densidad y complejidad, como el doble cuarteto de Ornette Coleman o el Art Ensamble of Chicago, y ya se escuchaban las colaboraciones entre el jazz y el rock con Miles Davis en Bitches Brew o los enlaces del rock con la música contemporánea con las obras de Frank Zappa, pero ni lejanamente se pensaba en la posibilidad de un trabajo de esta indole, y no se olviden que tampoco abundaban las mujeres instrumentistas en el jazz y menos como compositoras, tal vez un buen ejemplo seria Toshiko Akiyoshi aunque mas formal que Carla, en este disco escuchamos la unión del rock, un poco de free jazz, de la música de cabaret al estilo Kurt Weill, y la música después llamada "del mundo", pero finalmente lo que escuchamos es el trabajo de un músico creativo, alguien decía por ahi que si eres realmente un músico no estas pensando en un género en particular sino en crear música y depende de tu cultura, tu amplitud mental y creativa y el momento que estés viviendo que hará que uses tal o cual herramienta para decir lo que tienes que decir.
Para la grabación que llevo varios años, toda la lana (el dinero) que tenia Carla y mucho trabajo para finalmente juntar todo el material, contó con músicos de rock, como Jack Bruce, Don Preston (guitarrista de Zappa), de jazz como Don Cherry, Dawey Redman, del Gato Barbieri o John Maclaughin e incluso participa y ayuda activamente la cantante country Linda Ronstadt y un montón de los mejores músicos de la escena del free jazz de ese momento. Lo pueden ver en los créditos.
Es una obra abierta y divertida, el juego está en abrir y cerrar la trompa de eustaquio con dinamismo y abrir la mente para disfrutar esta obra, que en ese entonces mostró un nuevo camino para presentar una idea musical dentro del ambiente del jazz de los 70’s.
Consideraciones finales:
Primera, en el librito que lo acompaña contiene los textos de las canciones y puedes seguirlos, si los entiendes claramente, en los comentarios explicamelos pues yo todavía tengo mis dudas al respecto .
Segunda, la obra original se presento en un album triple cosa que nadie había hecho hasta entonces, Zappa fue el primero en hacer uno doble de rock, por esos años. Al final de el tercer disco o sea el lado 6 el zurco no terminaba abierto sino en un sinfín, con la consecuente acción de que nunca terminaba la obra, posteriormente en el CD se trato de hacer algo similar, así que si de repente crees que el sonido del vuelo del avión no termina pues es que es un viaje largo.
Tercera- si de entrada no te gusta, no te preocupes insiste lo suficiente y encontraras las razones por la que algunos consideran esta obra como un camino que se abrió en esos entonces a la creatividad y que si no te dicen cuando fue hecha seguramente pensaras que es actual
A continuacion los comentarios de gente mas clara y certera que yo, solo que no los encontré en español así que ni modo...
Carlos

¡Que material están trayendo últimamente nuestros amigos! Señores, de más está decirles que éstas maravillas no serán encontradas en otro lado, y ahora que nuestros colaboradores están a full (muy de vez en cuando posteo algún disco que traigo yo mismo) el blog cabezón brilla como nunca antes.
Si queren más datos de esta obra, por favor sigan leyendo:

INTRODUCCIÓN:
Ya han pasado varios años desde la primera vez que pensé en hacer un artículo sobre este disco, pero siempre me preguntaba si sería capaz de describir con palabras semejante maravilla. “Escalator Over The Hill” trasciende a cualquier estilo o género. Encuadrado en el mundo del jazz, entra sin compasión en el mundo del rock, en el de la música de cabaret, en la música oriental, en la clásica, etc…¿Es quizás mi disco favorito? . Muchas veces lo he pensado, y aunque es muy difícil elegir un solo álbum de entre todos los que hay, está claro que esta “ópera” (como los mismos autores se refirieron a ella en alguna ocasión, aunque realmente no lo sea), es una obra maestra absoluta y ha sido muy importante para mí.
GÉNESIS:
Carla Bley es una de las mejores compositoras de jazz de los últimos 40 años, además de pianista, organista y vocalista ocasional. Nacida en Oakland, California, en 1938, y bautizada como Carla Borg, se cria en un ambiente musical y religioso y desde muy pequeña participa tocando el piano y cantando en el coro en muchas ceremonias. A mediados de los´50, interesada en el jazz, se traslada a Nueva York, donde sobrevive tocando el piano en clubs y vendiendo cigarrillos, hasta que conoce al que sería su marido, el conocido pianista canadiense Paul Bley. Este le anima a empezar a componer música para su banda, y juntos comienzan una profunda relación tanto musical como personal. En 1964, Carla, el que sería su segundo marido poco después, el trompetista Michael Mantler y otros músicos forman la Jazz Composers' Guild Orchestra que después pasaría a ser la Jazz Composers' Orchestra Association (JCOA). Con estas formaciones, de naturaleza inquieta e innovadora, Carla madura como compositora, destacando los temas de “A Genuine Tong Funeral”, que sería adoptado por el vibrafonista Gary Burton y publicado en 1967, con la colaboración de varios miembros de la Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, o las piezas que compuso para el primer álbum de la Liberation Music Orchestra de Charlie Haden, publicado en 1969.
A principios de 1967, el poeta Paul Haines, le envió un poema a Carla Bley, que estaba trabajando en la composición "Detective Writer Daughter" ( que después formaría parte de la obra que nos ocupa). Las lineas de Haines iban a la perfección con la música que Bley había compuesto, y de esta forma decidieron escribir una especie de "ópera" juntos, aunque Haines vivia en Nuevo Mexico y prontó se trasladó a dar clases a La India. Bley, a raíz de la sorpresa que le causó la aparición de “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” de The Beatles, ya tenía pensado grabar, como disco debut, un álbum conceptual. Durante tres años Haines continuó enviando sus textos para que Carla Bley les pusiera música. Estos escritos no tienen un significado muy claro, lo que hace que el libreto de la obra sea de difícil comprensión. Aunque la trama se desarrolla en un hotel, y las letras son puestas en boca de algunos de sus clientes, no hay una intencionalidad de crear una trama que pueda seguirse, lo que seguramente hizo que en lugar de utilizarse la palabra “Ópera” al publicarse el disco, se utilizara el término “Chronotransduction”, creado por una amiga de Haines, y de difícil traducción. Luego llegó el momento de buscar al personal que tenía que interpretar la obra. En un principio, no fue una tarea difícil, ya que tanto Bley como su marido el trompetista Michael Mantler pertenecian a la Jazz Composer´s Orchestra, y tenian alrededor a gente como Roswell Rudd, Charlie Haden, Gato Barbieri,etc..., pero había que buscar también vocalistas. A esto se le añadía la complicación de buscar financiación para el proyecto, ya que las negociaciones con algunos sellos no funcionaron, y decidieron crear su propia discográfica, JCOA (Jazz Composer Orchestra Asociacion), para publicar el disco. La primera inyección de dinero provino de Sherry y Sue Speeth, amigos de Paul, que donaron 15.000 dolares. A esta le siguieron otras pequeñas donaciones de otros amigos, pero el dinero no alcanzaba para finalizar la obra, así que se decidió utilizar a algunos músicos que no cobraran por su participación, naciendo así la "Amateur Hotel Lobby Band", compuesta por músicos no profesionales. Un prestamo final de 30.000 dolares en junio de 1971, permitió la finalización de la obra.
zappamacias

Vamos con los comentarios en inglés que nos trae Carlos.

These days, no one would blink an eye at the thought of a jazz opera. But in 1971, Carla Bley's genre-spanning mix of poetry, country and Indian music was unprecedented
In the eclectic 21st century, the idea of an opera drawing on sources as diverse as jazz, rock and country music, Indian classical forms, hipster poetry and bursts of blistering free-improv doesn't sound that fanciful a notion. But back in 1970, it was unimaginable – until Carla Bley, the majestically eccentric pianist and composer, conjured up a gargantuan, avant-cinematic, cross-genre venture called Escalator Over the Hill, in the face of record company indifference and no financial support.
But through her sumptuous compositions for jazz orchestras, her charisma and deceptively offhand determination, Bley persuaded an extraordinary cast to collaborate on a venture that ran to three long-playing discs, laboriously assembled from separately recorded parts. This was long before the internet and digital studio technology made such things a breeze. Escalator became the Sgt Pepper of new jazz, or a parallel to Frank Zappa's genre-busting work in the same era – displaying an imagination and breadth that, for all the project's unevenness and periodically exasperating impenetrability, showed aspiring composers that the old sectarianisms in music could be swept away.
Bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce, from the then recently disbanded supergroup Cream, played a key role in the project, as did country singer Linda Ronstadt. Argentinian saxophonist Gato Barbieri, an admirer of Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders, plays with blazing intensity and power. Don Cherry, a cornetist with Ornette Coleman, is at his most jubilant, guitarist John McLaughlin is as fierce, bluesy and exciting as he is on the Miles Davis/Jack Johnson sessions recorded around the same time.

Escalator had slowly come together in the late-60s, after Carla Bley (the daughter of a church musician) taught herself jazz by listening to the giants of the genre as a club waitress and occasional pianist in 50s New York. She also revealed a distinctive melodic talent as a composer for her first husband, piano virtuoso Paul Bley. In the 60s, her work was increasingly adopted by jazz gurus such as George Russell and Jimmy Giuffre, and her powers as a large-ensemble composer in the Ellington-Mingus-Gil Evans tradition surfaced in work for vibraphonist Gary Burton (A Genuine Tong Funeral, 1967) and bassist Charlie Haden (Liberation Music Orchestra, 1969).
During the latter period, Bley had regularly been receiving poems from Paul Haines, an old friend and fan living in New Mexico and then India. Bley detected a musicality in Haines's writings that the poet hadn't imagined. The poems slowly coalesced into a jigsaw of a libretto. "I would put them on the piano and stare at them for hours," Bley told Time Out in 1972. "Sooner or later certain lines would seem to have a melody to them. Then it would be just a matter of working at it, with the form and rhythm of the lyric leading the way ... the full meaning of the words would not occur to me until I had worked with them for months, sometimes years. Through this process we eventually accumulated about twelve major pieces of music and I started thinking about Escalator over the Hill."
Set in an imaginary run-down hotel and catching the clamour of voices lost in it, Escalator features a rock band led by Jack Bruce (with McLaughlin on guitar) and an eastern group led by Don Cherry, both offering the hotel guests – including Linda Ronstadt as the character Ginger – a way out. "Jack was our Caruso," Bley said in 1972. "He sang the material better than anyone in the world, we couldn't have wanted anything else."
Since then, Carla Bley has won almost every international award and accolade in jazz. Her work is regularly regarded in the same light as giants such as Gil Evans and Duke Ellington. Her writing has spanned non-improvisational chamber music, a group with her current partner and bassist Steve Swallow, and leading European soloists such as saxophonist Andy Sheppard and trumpeter Paolo Fresu. But she's best known for intricate, harmonically lustrous music for orthodox jazz orchestras in which rich chords, lopsided tangos, thumping swing and a good deal of sidelong irony coexist. Bley has remarked that Kurt Weill, Erik Satie and the Beatles have had as strong an influence on her music as Ellington, Russell or Mingus – and it shows.
Bley once recalled a conversation with Swallow about self-doubt. Swallow told her that there may be only 50,000 people on the planet who really appreciated her music, but if that barely gets on the graph by pop-audience standards, who cares? Bley told the Guardian in 1991: "I'd rather have my 50,000 than a bigger audience that wanted me to do something different." Escalator Over the Hill, and all the many representations of Bley's idiosyncratic eloquence since, are enduring proof of her value.

The late '60s and early '70s played a great role in the development of youth culture and politics, but it was also a heady age for jazz, where the great changes of funk, rock, and counterculture seeped into improvised music and changed it forever. Not only were the established movers and shakers of jazz creating a stir, but also several new voices were greatly affecting what jazz could and would be. One of the most eclectic and brilliant of these was Carla Bley.
Bley in many ways can be seen as one of the few great jazz composers of the post bop era. The pianist is often regarded more for her work as a composer than for her chops. For an early example, on her then-husband Paul Bley's amazing ESP release Closer shows off some of Carla fine work as a composer. During this period, she became one of the founders of the Jazz Composer's Guild Orchestra before becoming a cult icon in the world of avant-garde jazz. In 1967 vibraphonist Gary Burton recorded her genius song cycle A Genuine Tong Funeral, where she was also featured as a pianist. This record first gave her public attention and led to her composing and arranging one of jazz's finest anti-war records, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. But the record that brought her into the full realm of jazz was Escalator Over the Hill.
Escalator Over the Hill is a huge, expansive, and all-encircling work that was originally released on a three-LP set. Even today, that seems a bit extreme for a debut release, but it's even more remarkable given that jazz at the time was experiencing a severe decline in popularity. But what is even more interesting is that the record works on the premise of being a conceptual opus. Though it has often been described as a jazz opera, that description fails on many levels. An opera, no matter how abstract, tells some sort of a story. Nowhere on this set are there any lyrics written by Paul Haines that really suggest a cohesive narrative.
The work by Haines, who is classified as a "jazz poet, consists of equal parts rambling beat poetry and interesting yet nonsensical lyrics that work more in the context of Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica than inside a unified story structure. Yet his bits are interesting and reflect the "far out surrealism and dadaism that was a big part of this period. Although the lyrics are bit crazy, they appeal the free chaos of the record and even flesh out the overall ideas projected on the album. The album does work as a concept record, much in the same way as the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out!, or Ornette Coleman's orchestral masterpiece Skies of America. Working from track to track with bits of poetry and vocals, the record comes alive in a variety of ways.
Throughout the record Bley's piano works in the background and allows her skills as a composer come to the forefront. As well, she shows a determination to work from traditional elements to all other extremes of music. Her combinations, ranging from bop to Kurt Weill's pre-WWII cabaret music to the sort of pure, raw aggression that could easily fit onto an early Anthony Braxton record, make this one of most interesting works in the canon of avant-garde jazz. Between the thirteen-minute cut-up opening piece "Hotel Overture" and the all-encompassing, Zappaesque 27-minute closing epic "...And it's Again," there's nothing left to the imagination.
Much like discs by the aforementioned Frank Zappa, the record utilizes rock at a variety of points that display aggression. Unlike Zappa's music, the rock doesn't really sound or grasp the conventions of rock music; here it seems merely like a tool, rather than a wholehearted expression, unlike the use of world music and jazz on the album. Unfortunately, at times the use of rock mixed with vocals sounds a bit too much like it might fit into the rock musical Hair. Being the first of its kind, Hair sounded like what New York theater composers and playwrights thought rock music and youth culture should sound like. But Hair was a product of its period as is this record. Musicians like Zappa and Steely Dan would find the perfect alchemy of rock and jazz.
Not to say that this set does not work. This opus is truly one of the most unique recordings that has ever graced modern music. Due to Bley's unrelenting fearlessness in surrounding her compositions with influences from around the world, this results are all the richer. Interestingly enough, the record features vocals from a young Linda Ronstadt on "Why," some clarion trumpet from Don Cherry, and a trio composed of John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce, and Paul Motian. As well, Carla gets started with early experimental big band pieces here. Overall this now two-CD set may seem a bit dated and grandiose, but nostalgic expanse is one of the great features of Escalator. It sounds unlike any other jazz recording ever. The genius of Carla Bley and the amazing ideas she incorporates into this record (and its followup, Tropic Appetites) make it worth searching out.
Trevor Maclaren

So here I am, faced with the task of explaining and justifying to you the piece of music which I regard as the greatest ever made, the gold standard against which I qualitatively measure all other music, the definitive record which, 30 years after its original appearance, may still render all other records redundant. In many ways, this is the article against which, by definition, all other articles of mine must be measured. And of course it will probably turn out to be the least effective. Because it is my duty to convince you that the greatest record ever made is a triple-album (double-album in CD format) boxed-set jazz-rock opera – no, not an opera, a “chronotransduction” (literally “a leading across time,” half Greek, half Latin, meaning nothing but echoing everywhere) built upon lyrics which may well be meaningless outside their immediate, purely musical effect.


No protest, no social commentary. No expression of love, of grief, of hope, of despair. It is literally whatever you want to make of it. It is devoid of every quality which you might assume would qualify it to be the greatest of all records. And yet it is that tabula rasa in its heart, the blank space which may well exist at the very heart of all music, revealing the hard truth that we have to fill in the blanks, we have to interpret what is being played and sung, and our interpretation is the only one which can possibly be valid, as we cannot discern any perspective other than our own.


There is, perhaps, a parallel between Escalator Over The Hill being the greatest record ever made and “Bohemian Rhapsody” routinely voted the greatest single ever made in polls – the latter admits within its own existence that “nothing really matters.” It means nothing, but our adoption of it means everything. It stands there for us to admire. Did it ever have a use? Even Gaudi’s cathedral in Barcelona has a purpose. And yet (pace Welles on Chartres) it only exists because I say it does.


Escalator, to be brutal, exists because the jazz composer Carla Bley one day heard Sgt Pepper and decided to match it. For lyrics she asked her friend Paul Haines, then resident in India, to come up with something. He filled a few notebooks and sent them to her. She spent most of 1967 setting it to music. In November 1968 recording started and continued intermittently over the next few years. Financially it almost finished Bley and her then husband, trumpeter/producer Michael Mantler, driving them some $90,000 into debt. But they persisted, and recording was finally completed in June 1971. With the exception of post-1967 Miles Davis, it is perhaps the most brilliant example of pop influencing and leading a jazz enterprise.


Not that this was jazz per se. Many of the stalwarts of Bley and Mantler’s Jazz Composer’s Association (JCOA) participated; a distinguished cast of improvisers including trumpeters Don Cherry and Enrico Rava, trombonist Roswell Rudd, tuba player Howard Johnson, clarinetist Perry Robinson, saxophonists Gato Barbieri, Jimmy Lyons and Dewey Redman, violinist Leroy Jenkins, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Paul Motian and singers Sheila Jordan and Jeanne Lee. But this was only part of the 54-strong collective personnel. Also present were the likes of John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce, Linda Ronstadt, Don Preston and Paul Jones, and even wilder cards such as Warhol superstar Viva, who acts as narrator throughout the piece. Not to mention several amateur musicians and non-professional “singers” – the influence of Christian Wolff making itself known here, using untutored tones and anti-technical techniques to simultaneously deflate and inflate our expectations. As with John Stevens’ experiments with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, everybody’s contribution counted. Literally, it was Bley throwing everything into a pot and seeing what sort of broth would emerge. It was everything she knew about music up to and including 1971. And even in the fertile climate of the early 70s, where fusion, to paraphrase Steve Lake, had yet to be defined as interchangeable with “short cut to the bank,” Escalator cast its net very wide indeed. It was as if Bley had set out to sum up everything that had happened in the 20th century, musically.


Really, the “jazz” content of Escalator begins and ends with its first track, the “Hotel Overture.” A brilliantly orchestrated and conducted 17-piece ensemble essays the various themes of the piece in a disciplined and concise way, leaving plenty of space for the featured soloists – here Roswell Rudd, Perry Robinson, Gato Barbieri and Charlie Haden – to stamp their personalities on the work.


(The structure is immensely complicated; some of the character parts are divided between singers and musicians, the latter expressing emotions beyond the articulacy of the former)


Certainly one of the most awesome moments in contemporary jazz is witnessing Barbieri’s tenor surfacing slowly from the ensemble like a U-boat to explode into near hysteria. And the way in which Haden’s bass restores humility and sets the stage for the beginning of the piece proper is an architectural wonder. Most jazz critics to this day haven’t got beyond this 14-minute opening section.


The work itself “begins” with a hum, slowly fading in. As it reaches its peak, terrible harmonies begin to emerge, voices, remembered pasts, detonate everywhere, a life rewinding itself (which turns out to be the truth; this is in fact the ending of the work played backwards). Eventually it is obliterated by the “Phantom Music” – Bley, Mantler and Preston on various keyboards, electronics and effects – before a dead-sounding brass ensemble plays a forlorn fanfare, and voices float in and out of the mix over two unresolved piano lines and frog noises (“Bullfrogs are having their throats cut”).
Wherever this record will take us, this is where we will end up.


Bridged by Don Preston singing “Like Animals,” we then move into Cecil Clark’s Old Hotel, probably based on the Chelsea Hotel. Most of this work would seem to be centered around the somewhat sleazy exploits of this hotel’s clientele. The title song “Escalator Over The Hill” is the nearest we get to a sing along; very Kurt Weill in its structure (although also owing something to near forgotten early jazz/classical/theatrical ventures such as Ernst Krenek’s 1927 Jonny Spielt Auf), before boiling over into a brief freeform scrum, then settling back down into its united Sunday school choral front. Following more death knell electronica in “Stay Awake” (the “Phantom Music,” by the way, eerily prophesizes what the Residents would get up to later in the decade), there is a ballad “Ginger And David” sung by Sheila Jordan with great relish (particularly the line, “A sickman she’d sought for the night/To fuck her to sleep”).


After some more Weill-esque brass interludes, and a reprise of the “Escalator” main theme, we are suddenly thrust without warning into electricity – Jack’s Travelling Band, with Jack Bruce on vocals and bass and John McLaughlin on guitar. “Businessmen” launches what may be the definitive sequence of avant-pop songs. Its monstrous riff doubles back on itself (the influence of Can is felt here as well as the more obvious ones of Lifetime and Mahavishnu) and again is drowned beneath the ominous waves of “Phantom Music.” There are several career-best performances by some of the musicians involved in this record, and there is an urgency and acidity to McLaughlin’s playing in particular which he never quite equaled in intensity elsewhere.


Then we get “Why,” a beautiful C&W ballad sung by Linda Ronstadt as “Ginger” – the innocent heroine, one supposes – with Haden providing some Southern harmony work. The way that the song ducks from its expected climax, to rest on its original unresolved chord sequence, and how Ronstadt meets it with her delivery of the word “heart” is among the most heart-wrenching endings of all pop songs.


“Detective Writer Daughter” sets Bruce’s studied vocals and Bley’s deliberately strained singing against a wall of brass. Again and again (and “again” is the key word in the whole piece) I am reminded of what Zappa’s music might have sounded like if all his yea-sayers were correct, stripped of the misanthropy and essential lack of punctum. The dynamics, ranging from awed silence to top-C hysteria in a matter of seconds, make for sublime but disturbing pop.


After a delicate, beautifully orchestrated interlude for brass – “Slow Dance (Transductory Music)” which may well be Bley’s finest piece of brass writing, comparable with Duane Tatro’s deceptively impressionist soundscapes of the 50s (see, for instance, 1957’s Music For Brass on Columbia) – we are led into the gothic brutalism of a torch song that is “Smalltown Agonist.” Sung with great restraint by Paul Jones, who appears to be singing about a horrendous rape which has occurred in the hotel premises (Ginger being the victim), the orchestra, drums and piano swell up and around him as various other vocal lines intrude and work in parallel. The tension builds up as finally Gato Barbieri’s tenor rises out of nowhere and screams its pain, its bloodied grief, before settling back down into numbness. A stunning performance.


The mood of the piece now becomes darker. Bley’s sinister monologue on “End Of Head” segues into another Weill waltz “Over Her Head,” partly performed by the Original Amateur Hotel Band (a kind of Scratch Orchestra set-up of untutored musicians) but finally leading to a desolate Ronstadt vocal which is near unbearable in its poignancy, culminating in Bley and Ronstadt harmonizing “Contemplating suicide/As protection from fraud...” A tragic end in sight, and another segue into a tormented chamber performance – the Tim Buckley of Happy Sad about to be derailed by George Crumb – “Little Pony Soldier,” largely sung by a double-tracked Jack Bruce and backed by an avant-Americana acoustic line-up including Karl Berger’s nagging vibes and Dewey Redman’s plaintive post-Ornette alto. The David Ackles of Subway to the Country taken into untrammelled waters.


Then, a fairground calliope whirls into atonal action as Bill Leonard’s robotic monologue is delivered in “Oh Say, Can You Do?” We dive into – well, a piano ballad sung by Bley (“It’s never nearly over, yet”) which is suddenly hijacked by a demented Tod Papageorge into a stoned nightclub sing along called “Holiday In Risk” which plays with the stuck-needle groove (far more concisely and cuttingly than on Bley’s later Musique Mecanique) and ends with Bley staring at us, singing: “Stop refusing to explain...Give up explaining.” Which of course leads us into a Palm Court Hotel Lobby Band swinging through the “Holiday In Risk Theme” Glenn Miller-style. Barbieri leads the ensemble as they fade out into God knows where.


We have now arrived at the end of side four of the original six-sided vinyl edition. So far we have witnessed an unprecedented, certainly pre-post modern collision (more fission than fusion) between avant-pop, European light opera, post-Darmstadt electronica which also foresees the Iceman Cometh atmosphere which was to drench everything from Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation to Portishead’sDummy. Not to mention foreseeing John Zorn. Or David Thomas. Or indeed the whole fucking No Wave scene (you think I’m wrong? Listen to the near “Song For Che” bassline which propels the controlled chaos of “Helen Forsdale” and tell me I’m wrong). You know even two-thirds of the way through that this is a sublime dream of a journey, an impossible and unreproduceable gallimaufry of pluralistic aesthetics. This is like everything you have ever heard, mashed together, and thus like nothing you have ever heard.


You wonder, with two sides still to go, whether this record can actually get any better, any more sublime.


Enter Don Cherry and the Desert Band.


And now, even though what we have already heard is demonstrably a dream – andEscalator is one of the few records about which I can truly say I dreamt, from beginning to end, before I even heard it – the music, unbelievably, moves one dimension higher, and becomes the most sublime dream within a dream. India. The Desert Band.


“AIR (All India Radio)” seems to owe something in its main melodic motif to Wayne Shorter’s “Mahjong,” but this is merely the starting point for an odyssey which seems to come from a fourth world beyond even the remit of what we have already heard. Cherry’s trumpet interacts beautifully with Leroy Jenkins’ violin, Calo Scott’s cello and the Moroccan clarinet of Souren Baronian. A drone which could last forever.
A light which pierces the darkness set up on side four.


And then, perhaps the most sublime 12 minutes of music ever created, “Rawalpindi Blues.” Beginning as a blues-ish lament by Jack Bruce, both he and McLaughlin drive the song into near overdrive. McLaughlin plays as though there is a gun pointed at his temple. And yes, I’ve not said it yet, but there are other lyrics printed in the booklet, lyrics which are not sung but which you have to read in tandem with instrumental passages and/or solos. McLaughlin just screams “it’s again it’s again it’s AGAIN” without having to open his mouth. And a word to Paul Motian, who has the unenviable task of handling all the drumming duties throughout Escalator; what a masterfully subtle percussionist he is. Just as everything is about to build up to an orgasmic crescendo (hear Bruce’s tactile, “When we werrrrrrre alone...”)


it suddenly cuts off into a drone


“What will we ever do with you?” wonders the late singer-songwriter Steve Ferguson (sounding uncannily like Michael Stipe) over Bley’s multitracked muezzin wail


before we return to the Desert Band


and Don Cherry plays the most grief-stricken lament you have ever heard, outdoing even Miles at his most harrowing and consoling.
The heart of the record is reached, and as the Desert Band float in some unimaginable nirvana, this music goes beyond surrealism, goes beyond sublime and becomes something very near to holy. In the unhurried grace of this performance, Cherry and the Desert Band come awfully near to whatever may be described as “the truth” in music, nearer than any other musician I’ve ever heard. Whether on trumpet, flute or his own muezzin wail of a voice (“again” again), he never cut deeper than he did here. And of all the instrumental combinations on this record, the Desert Band is the only ensemble which does not require additional lyrics. They speak, very literally, through their music.


Side six.
The final furlong. We start with “End of Rawalpindi” which reintroduces Jack’s Travelling Band with a new Ginger – Jeanne Lee – who after the first thematic statement (yes, you guessed it, “it’s again”) takes over and improvises over a blissful psychedelic groove, worrying at the word “again” like a bone, twisting it and embracing it. Eventually the Desert Band return and the two ensembles finally fuse together, playing as one. There is hope...


...but not at Cecil Clark’s Old Hotel, to which we now return. Don Preston sings “End Of Animals,” a bleaker, revised reprise of his opening ballad “Like Animals,” and then we’re into the closing section “And It’s Again” where all the participants take their final bows as the hotel collapses around them in irretrievable debris, leaving us with the need for some kind of cathartic release. We are finally left with the original Phantom Music, now sounding like Cardew’s AMM hoovering up the debris and emptying the dustbag into cosmic nothingness. Voices come at us from every direction (an influence of the Velvets’ “Murder Mystery”?) declaiming “truths” which are “closer than the ear can hear.” And ultimately a synth drone which blossoms into a massed descending choral lament as the voices spell your end, standing at the edge of the world, on the precipice of existence. It is left to Jack Bruce to sound the Last Trump.
Emotionally devastating – and devastated - he howls the word “again” just like he howled the title of Lifetime’s “One Word” over and over, until, his soul spent, he subsides into silence, and the choir resolves into the same monotonal hum with which the work began. On the original vinyl, the drone wound into a locked groove, so it could theoretically play forever. On the CD it is allowed to run for whatever space there is left on the CD.


It is simultaneously unlike, and above, every other record. Because there is in fact no meaning there other than that with which you are prepared to credit it. Because in the end we are left with our own ears to listen to this song however we choose to listen to it. Because perhaps it tells us what a trivial pursuit music really is, and at the same time how indispensable to a meaningful existence it in fact is. Because it sums everything up and dares to pretend a future – even though all the influences quoted above are indirect; no one has ever cited Escalator as a direct influence on their music. Like its cinematic equivalent, Last Year In Marienbad, it might have to exist above the realm of “influence” – it is just there, reproaching us with its ambition.
No one, least of all Carla Bley, has subsequently come even within an orbit’s distance of its achievements. It is unparalleled anywhere in music. I – or can I adopt the royal/Wyndham Lewis “we”? – know it can never be bettered, that the best we can do is scratch lovingly at the tip of its own iceberg. It is, in the most literal of senses, untouchable.
Marcello Carlin

This album has fascinated me ever since I first read about it in the Rolling Stone Record Guide, back way before we had this wonderful Internet thingy. The album was described as some sort of magical universe, a completely unprecedented convergence of rock, jazz, avant garde, and surrealist theater. And yet, even that glowing writeup did not prepare me for the shock I got when I finally located a copy and listened with libretto in hand. 20 years later, it still amazes me. I consider it a high water mark in my collection, a monumental effort the likes of which have rarely been attempted, let alone equaled.

Carla Bley, along with a cast of close to 100 musicians in various groupings, as well as lyricist Paul Haines, released this 3-record set in 1971, the culmination of several years of work. The music alternates between big-band jazz (specializing in a cheesy cabaret vibe as befits the decadent hotel where the story takes place), psychedelic acid rock (with Jack Bruce, John McLaughlin, Paul Motian, and Bley forming a dream team of sorts), avant garde drones (described here as "phantom music", and used to make stark contrasts against the often busy music that occupies the majority of the album), and some stunning "desert music", a spine-chilling concoction of Don Cherry's abstract trumpet shrieks, woozy hand percussion, and a strange drone tapestry created from the seamless blending of violin, cello, and Moroccan clarinet.
Most of the tracks have vocals too, people from Don Preston (Mothers of Invention) to Paul Jones (Manfred Mann) to Jack Bruce (Cream) to Linda Ronstadt and even Carla Bley herself (not known as a singer, though to be fair, neither is Don Preston), and many more too numerous to mention, taking the mic at various points. Each singer plays a character in an absurd, somewhat frightening tale taking place inside a cheesy hotel full of low-life degenerates and their vices. Musical themes are introduced and revisited, the scenery shifts without notice, and the whole shebang is just one huge head-scratcher. I still don't know what it all means, but that's not really the point. The overall mood is one of almost complete loss of rationality, in a world where sense and morality have no place. It's dark comedy at its most surreal.
One of the most impressive things about this album is how it maintains a slowly climbing level of emotional intensity for the duration of its length, and just when you think you've heard all it has to offer, it offers one surprise after another. The entire first side of the 3 record set is the "Hotel Overture", a jazz big band arrangement of several of the musical themes that will pop up later. The highlight comes in the middle of the piece, where over a funeral cadence (later to be presented as the grim "Smalltown Agonist" on side three) we hear tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri take a solo cadenza that you won't soon forget. Weeping, shrieking, SCREAMING through his sax, it still makes my hair stand on end. Ironically, even though as an "overture" it's supposed to provide clues of what's to come, it's a pretty deceptive beginning to the album. I can imagine someone hearing it and coming to the conclusion that this is a jazz album. Ha! Just you wait.
On side two, the meat of the album begins. "This is Here..." opens with the "phantom music", a very long fade-in, with scary noises flying in and out of the mix. I believe these noises are actually the music from the END of the album, played backwards! Finally Carla intones the benediction in a spooky voice over spooky organ drones and voices. This is jazz? Then Don Preston (as the "Lion") sings the somber and brief "Like Animals", one of the most succinct and beautiful spots on the album - his role seems to be that of the "Tramp" in Shakespeare's plays -- the wise and humble outsider commenting, unseen, on the action. Then we get the clambering trainwreck of the title piece - "Escalator Over the Hill" often sounds like a drunken cabaret band - charging onward heavy-handedly, only to stumble and nearly fall every now and then, with multiple singers singing one-liners from within Cecil Clark's Hotel Lobby. Phantom music returns, and Carla Bley repeats the phrase "Stay Awake! Please! Stay Awake!" in increasingly frenzied tones. A brief vocal piece called "Ginger and David" introduces two more characters, a desperate pair of strangers fated to shack up together very soon. An instrumental reprise of the title track closes side two.
A brief fanfare opens side three, and then we get the electric rock band of Bruce, McLaughlin, Motian, and Bley ("Jack's Traveling Band" in the libretto) spewing bile about "Businessmen" in the lobby. After a reprise of "Ginger and David", Linda Ronstadt (as Ginger) sings the closest thing this album has to a conventional pop song, the pleading "Why". Despite it's fluffy veneer, the lyrics are rather grotesque, and Bley joins in towards the end to add to the confusion. Bley and Bruce duet on the chaotic and complex "Detective Writer Daughter". A small brass band plays a "Slow Dance". And the side ends on a most gloomy note, with Manfred Mann's Paul Jones singing deathly melodies and graphic lyrics of violence over funereal music in "Smalltown Agonist". Gato Barbieri returns with some mad saxophone in the fadeout.
Side four feels a bit less serious and more whimsical, although this ultimately proves to be even more ominous than before - as if acknowledging that things (in the story) couldn't really get worse. The music is light and playful, and although it gets melancholy, it doesn't get quite so doomy. "Over Her Head" is a confusing piece of music sung by Bley, never staying in one place too long. "Little Pony Soldier" features a remarkable Bruce vocal over a simple guitar figure. ""Holiday in Risk" returns to the schizo mood of "Over Her Head". Everything is getting all topsy turvy and it's hard to focus on reality anymore. It seems like things can't get any weirder. But there's still one record to go. On to side five, glorious side five...
There is a long, eerie fade-in, with odd sounds slowly making themselves known until we're fully into "A.I.R. (All India Radio)", the first time we've yet heard the incredible "desert band" of Don Cherry on the album. The sound of this grouping of musicians is unlike any I've heard. One of the few purely instrumental numbers on the album, it nonetheless makes its point absolutely clear: we have now taken the album to a new plane of consciousness, or perhaps unconsciousness - everything below us on sides one through four seems so small now from up here. Having shifted gears to terra incognita, we move onward to what is probably the centerpiece of the whole album, "Rawalpindi Blues". Jack's Traveling Band starts us off, with John McLaughlin taking an especially inspired guitar solo. Then unexpectedly, the song starts to decompose and morph into a return to Don Cherry's desert ensemble, a transition that really makes for one of the most surreal musical turns on the whole album - and it continues for what seems like ages, the remainder of the album side, a heartfelt cry of spiritual longing, with a bottomless reservoir of regret and sadness.
Side six is ostensibly a continuation of that track ("End of Rawalpindi"), but the mood is suddenly much brighter, with the rock band coming back to pep things up again. This continuation goes for a further nine minutes. As if reflecting on all that has happened in these emotional, confusing album sides, Don Preston returns for a reprise of "Like Animals" called "End of Animals". I just love the melody of that song. And then we're off into the big Finale: "....And it's Again" (by the way, the word "again" seems to be a recurring word/theme in this work). This track tries to pull everything together into one piece pulling musical themes and characters into a spiraling conclusion that seems to introduce more questions than answers. It lasts for about 9 minutes, but it seems to have no beginning, middle, or end, it just mixes all these things together into a confusing stew of words, phrases, musical links, all stirred in a woozy, circular pattern. Far from the cathartic climax we might have foolishly expected, this is everything regressing back into its infant form, eventually dwindling down to nearly nothing but a few disembodied voices and drones (which, remember, were played backwards for us to open "This is Here..."). The circular life cycle encompassing the album has completed. We are back where we started, and what the hell just happened?
And then everything is gone.
Except for a low buzzing hummmmmm, the "phantom music" with which we began our journey, lasting to infinity. A locked groove on the LP sees to that, unless you have the strength to pick up the needle. For those of you with CD or mp3 players (guilty!), the final track plays out this hum for approximately 20 extra minutes to replicate the experience of infinite hum. Don't worry, there are no surprise noises hidden in there, just an eerie hummmmm... and it's agaaiinnnnnn.
Awarding this five stars is a no-brainer for me. One of the best albums in my collection.
Steve

No se pierdan esta belleza, agradezcan a Carlos, asómbrense ante el arte y disfruten como se debe. Otro de los grandes discos recomendadísimos del blog cabezón!




6 comentarios:

  1. Download: ¿Todavía no le agradecieron a Carlos????
    http://pasted.co/63ed213a

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  2. Una música impresionante y hermosa mujer !!!!!!!!. Gracias Carlos!!!!!!!

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  3. gracias garacias gracias gracias gracias Carlos CArlos

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  4. WOW!, una vez más; GRACIAS DE TODO CORAZÓN. Gracias por brindarnos este tipo de rarezas exoticas que creo yo son muy difíciles de encontrar en algún otro sitio. saludos amigos.

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