Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

Carla Bley

  • Dinner Music [Watt, 1977] B+
  • European Tour 1977 [Watt, 1978] A-
  • Musique Mecanique [Watt, 1979] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Dinner Music [Watt, 1977]
I'm quite taken with this, which reminds me in an abstract way of Another Green World. Where dance jazz was unselfconsciously functional, this is art jazz that was designed to be functional--just as Eno designed his electronic pop-rock to fade into the background the way so much electronic pop-rock does anyway. The result is yet another of those Jazz Composer's Orchestra get-togethers between avant-gardists (JCOA stalwarts Michael Mantler and Roswell Rudd) and pop luminaries (the Stuff studio funk axis), and this time the music meshes. Unfortunately, however, I find that only two of the right cuts--"Ida Lupino" and "Ad Infinitum"--combine melody and rigor as magically as the double-edged concept promises. B+

European Tour 1977 [Watt, 1978]
Although the basic concept--Kurt Weill Meets Ornette Coleman for Indiscreet Ellingtonian Frolic--is a little abstruse, this actually does reward the sort of close listening that earns so many theoretical payoffs. Perhaps amusement is the reward a little too often, however. I like a joke as well as the next fellow, but a few emotional expositions do help assuage one's conscience. A-

Musique Mecanique [Watt, 1979]
I'm still attracted to Bley's humor, best displayed here in the title piece, a wry take on the charms and imperfections of the mechanical mode. But this is basically desultory, hinting at the feckless formalism an obsession with textures so often conceals. Beyond the jokes, and the deliberately aborted moments of lyricism, she really doesn't have much to say. Weill sure did. And so did Satie. B