Carla Bley – Escalator Over the Hill (Side 2)
1971 – JCOA Records
Part 2 of a 6-part series: Side two creeps in on you in two senses. One is that it goes from very quiet and slowly builds and two is that it puts you in a space of uneasiness. It is hard to understand what is going on, synthesizers create sounds that, mixed with the chorus, sound like they could be taken from a horror movie. Longtime readers of this blog can probably guess that I love that. There is a prepared piano in the first tune that takes its place in the background and adds to the mood. Side two is the first time we get a taste of the mixture of free jazz, orchestral music, and opera. It really works together, thanks to Bley’s beautiful arrangement. She has a way of knowing exactly what works together and how to make seemingly disparate things complement each other. The waltz theme that was represented in the overture is completely flushed out on this side. The vocals add an element that completely makes the recording. Near the end of the side, there are some really nice lines from Gato Barbieri. Jimmy Lyons makes an appearance here as well. So far, two sides in, I’m still completely enthralled in everything that is going on. Come back next week to get some insights into side three.