Feature/Interview

52 Jazz Tracks for 2021 (New Series by Jon Turney – 1. Carla Bley’s ‘Indonesian Dock Sucking Supreme’ )

Jon Turney, a regular (and wonderful!) LJN writer, is bringing a touch of nostalgia to the new year. Each week, he will reflect on a track that has meant something to him on his Bristol Jazz Log (aka Mainly Jazz in Bristol), exploring why each particular piece has remained a favourite, and taking a look at how listening habits have changed. 

Jon says: “I seem to be of an age where looking back is as interesting as forward. And current paucity of live stuff does encourage revisiting old recordings. Each track chosen will stand for a recorded set (CD or LP from the old days) that I loved at first go, and still find rewarding.”

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Jon’s first track is Indonesian Dock Sucking Supreme by Carla Bley from the album “Tropic Appetites” (1974). Here is a taster of his thoughts on the track:

The title gives a flavour of this recording, which was Carla Bley’s second collection of compositions setting words by Paul Haines. It builds on the soundworld of its predecessor, the sprawling megaproject Escalator Over the Hill – Bley’s first recording of her own stuff after establishing herself as a notable jazz composer in the ‘60s – but this album is shorter and more unified.

Even with a small band, it offers a beguiling mix with Bley once more proving her ear for distinctive soloists, including here Michael Mantler on trumpet, Dave Holland on bass and the incandescent Gato Barbieri in his Ayleresque prime on tenor sax.

The crowning glory on this track is Julie Tippetts voicing Haines’ words. Despite laying down the track in London, thousands of miles from the ensemble, it is transfixingly good. Her pellucid, perfectly paced delivery is one of the things that draws me back again and again.

She begins this track almost solo, Bley sounding a single piano chord per bar, establishing a dreamy, steamy langour that fits the tropical motif. There’s some light orchestral decoration then the mood jumps as the keyboards go electric, the whole band kicks in at 2.34 and Barbieri launches another scalding solo with violin, bass and drums churning beneath him. There’s some exciting bass and drum work, and we hear Julie again at the close.

Listening now, I appreciate some things more, especially the subtlety at every moment of Paul Motian’s drumming and the way the band work together on the charts, which are complex but always seem to complement the words perfectly. I can affirm that it sounds as good now as it did 45 years ago.

Many thanks to Jon Turney for this shortened version of his full piece, and we look forward to finding out what the other 51 tracks are to come…

LINKS: The full piece “Carla Bley Gets Into Her Stride” is at Bristol Jazz Log
Full introduction to the series
Indonesian Dock Sucking Supreme is on Spotify 

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