Published Feb 28, 2019Since first coming to prominence in the 1960s, Carla Bley has compiled one of the most interesting songbooks in modern jazz. And Around Again, a new album of Bley material performed by Iro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors and Barry Altschul, is a deep dive into her back pages, making a strong case for her credentials as a jazz composer.
Around Again opens with "Closer," a showcase here for Haarla's piano; her playing is deliberate and introspective, twisting and turning, building up to a tasty Krokfors bass solo. This mood continues through a more well-known Bley piece, "Vashkar." Krokfors opens with a bass solo before Altschul and Haarla join. Altshul's drumming pushes the music, and there's some interesting interplay between Krokfors and Haarla throughout.
The way this trio re-imagines Bley is most successful on "Olhos De Gato." It opens with Altschul playing solo for nearly a minute before the other two kick in — and it's Krokfors on bass who plays the signature lick, with Haarla's occasional piano jabs. The trio tease out the song's melody, stretching it to its breaking point.
Indeed, that's a good way to sum up Around Again. Since many of Bley's pieces are short and build to improvise around, this trio finds new ways to explore her music: "Ida Lupino," "And Now, the Queen" and "Jesus Maria" all sound fresh here. This makes Around Again is an ideal place for those curious about Bley's music, while longtime fans will find a lot to chew on, too. (TUM Records)