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December 3 , 2009

German Jazz Trophy for Carla Bley

Carla Bley was awarded the German Jazz Trophy for her life’s work on November 24 in Stuttgart’s Gustav-Siegle-Haus. “Her compositions and arrangements combine elements of jazz, rock and European modernism in at times grotesque and ironic ways”, writes the prize committee, stating that Bley’s music has played a major role on festival and concert hall programmes reaching audiences way beyond the core jazz aficionados. The composer, pianist, arranger and band leader received the sculpture by artist O. J. Hajek from the hands of pianist Wolfgang Dauner before performing with her current quartet “The Lost Chords” featuring Andy Sheppard, Steve Swalow and Billy Drummond. The Stuttgarter Nachrichten reported: “Within seconds she leaps from a blues phrase to a slowly revolving waltz in minor key, moving on directly to a buoyant latin piece….Enthusiastic applause for an extraordinary and truly great jazz concert.” Former laureates of German Jazz Trophy, a joint prize endowed by Sparda Bank, Kulturgesellschaft Wort and Jazzezeitung, included Kenny Wheeler, Paul Kuhn and Wolfgang Dauner.

Initial press reactions to Carla Bley’s most recent WATT release – “Carla’s Christmas Carols” scored for piano, bass and brass quintet – are extremely positive. “Her arrangements are often respectful but rarely stuffy: she trusts the warm sonority of the ensemble and the durability of these melodies”, writes Nate Chinen in the New York Times. In The Guardian John Fordham asserts: “You can always count on Carla Bley to put an edge on the most familiarly sentimental melodies – even transplanting Christmas carols from the fireside to the jazz club…” And in the French magazine Classica Jean-Pierre Jackson observes that “with her ensemble concept and beautiful orchestration Carla Bley proves to be a worthy successor of Gil Evans. And this is not the smallest of compliments.”