Picks and Pans Review: Night-Glo

updated 01/27/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/27/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Carla Bley, with Steve Swallow

Having for years made music that commands the foreground in the attention of any listener who encounters it, jazz composer Carla Bley seems to have decided to balance the ledger by making an album of background music. Recumbent, easy-listening stuff with wimpy fade-out endings. Valium City. Is she for real? Look at her on the album cover, kneeling at sunset on a fronded beach to light a stogie for bassist Steve Swallow, who's reclining in a lounge chair and barely concealing a grin. Got to be kidding, right? Bley has one of the richer senses of humor in jazz (witness her last LP, I Hate To Sing). But would the keyboardist write and arrange five new compositions for a sextet plus horn section just to pull off a put-on? Her possible intentions come through in the final track, a 12½-minute reverie called Wildlife. The burbling momentum of the second section recalls the style of the late Nino Rota, who created the scores for virtually all of Fellini's films. Bley was one of the artists who made a fine tribute album to Rota in 1983. This album sounds like the sound track to a movie that exists only in Bley's mind—a rolling-down-the-road or bobbing-in-a-sailboat movie. Only Rut and Wildlife are stimulating enough to offer the listener's imagination an engaging roam. (Watt/ECM)

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