02. The Carla Bley Band / European Tour 1977 (1978)
European Tour 1977 is an easy album to take to. Carla's organ swirls and growls in the background, and with help from pianist Terry Adams (who does an admirable job of carrying the shambling groove), she occasionally does parts with the tenor sax. She uses voicings that are alternately sublime or spooky, and runs amok behind the front line soloists. The music is typical of the 1970s Carla Bley Band, a polyphony of mutual contributions that are playfully moody, eccentric, and make a topsy-turvy ride filled with colorful textures and abrupt shifts into wild extemporizing from Elton Dean, John Clark, and Gary Windo. It's joyously free while remaining remarkably accessible, if the word "free" really needs to be qualified. On "Star Spangled Minor," the assembled brasses, squalling reeds and raging drum kit recall Albert Ayler's interpretations of spirituals and simple Americana, reclaimed and expanded, a newly enfranchised musical Frankenstein. Indeed, members of Bley's band (Gary Windo, Elton Dean) are no strangers to the avant-garde or Ayler, and are easily comfortable with this type of music.