Carla Bley – Escalator Over the Hill (Side 1)

1971 – JCOA Records


This is one of those albums that I’d heard about for a long time, but had never actually listened to. When I saw it in an antiques shop for $10, I knew I had to pick it up. Since this is a triple LP (six sides), I’m going to break it up into a six-part series. The first side starts with some power behind it. A trombone (Roswell Rudd) takes some soloing and melody lines on top of held chords. Later in the overture, a tenor sax (Gato Barbieri) does the same thing, but instead of beautiful sweeping lines, he screeches and almost sounds like someone screaming (which is awesome). After the trombone solo up top, it almost feels like the band is slowly falling apart (by design). It leaves you unsettled until a creepy waltz comes in, unsettling you in a different way. As an overture is meant to do, a lot of the themes that are heard throughout the other five sides are introduced. There is some beautiful writing and arranging by Bley here. One part that jumps out to me is the way that the band lays back on the beat, they sound so comfortable. After the madness, Charlie Haden has a great solo, which is set perfectly here (arrangement wise) as a sort of palette cleanser. Out of the bass solo we get some resolution in the chords with all the instruments and we are ready to jump to side two. We will catch up next week with that, so make sure to stop back!