Carla Bley – Social Studies

1981 – WATT/ECM


Carla Bley is one of the great jazz composers/arrangers of all time. Her work is wide, varied, and deep. I picked up this album without knowing of it just because I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. All her albums offer something interesting to the listener. One of my favorite tracks here is “Valse Sinistre”, which is exactly what it sounds like; a creepy, sinister waltz. The way that Bley arranged for tuba and euphonium, without them playing over the other while playing complementary, is great.  Other than the composition and arrangement, the trombone is the star of the album for me. Gary Valente is a great player that can be heard on a lot of Bley’s recordings, as well as the George Russell Big Band. His solos are creative, interesting, and hold their own on top of the moving compositions. Steve Swallow also has some great moments on this LP as well. Overall, this is an album worth checking out. The playing from all the musicians is great, the arrangements are interesting, and the vibe created is awesome. Soon I will be covering Bley’s Escalator over the Hill album, and I think I am going to break it into a few weeks (it’s a triple LP!). Stay tuned for that, in the meantime, check out some of her other work and enjoy!