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Album Review

On many of her recordings, Carla Bley could hardly be accused of hogging the spotlight as a soloist; emphasizing her talents as a bandleader, composer and arranger, she tended to let her sidemen take the long solos. But she gave herself a lot more space on 1992's Go Together and Songs with Legs, a live album that was recorded during a May 1994 tour that included dates in Turkey and Western Europe. Forming a drumless trio with longtime ally Steve Swallow (bass) and Britain's flexible Andy Sheppard (tenor and soprano sax), Bley sticks to the acoustic piano and gives herself plenty of room to stretch out. It's a shame that she often chose to take few solos in the past, for Bley's pianism is quite appealing on Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso" and angular, cerebral originals like "Wrong Key Donkey," "Chicken," and "Real Life Hits." Meanwhile, the CD's less abstract, more accessible tunes include the churchy "The Lord Is Listenin' to Ya, Hallelujah!" and the dreamy, Pharoah Sanders-ish "Crazy with You." For those who've said they wish Bley would solo more often, Songs with Legs is an album to hear.

Songs With Legs, Andy Sheppard
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