This record, her first for ECM, is a retrospective take on pieces written for different formats re-imagined for her trio of 20 years standing. With producer Manfred Eicher at the studio controls, it’s a match made in chamber jazz heaven. Eicher chose the tunes and his influence is there from the opener ‘Utviklingssang’.
Gary Booth; BBC Music Magazine
Carla Bley’s trio of piano, sax and bass guitar fits her agile, gently melancholic and slightly self-mocking idiom to a T. She’s so confident in her own composing powers she can make a blatant nod towards Rael’s ‘Bolero’ in ‘Vashkar’, and Monk’s pungent seventh chords in ‘Les Trios Lagons’, knowing these will be subsumed into something entirely personal. ‘The Girl Who Cried Champagne’ also shows a nice line in surprise endings. An endearing blend of sophistication and whimsy.
Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph
Was für Melodien! Welche Transparenz! Brüchig, spröde und doch federleicht wirkt Carla Bleys Klavierspiel, und beschwingt tanzen die Melodien aus Andy Sheppards Tenor- oder Sopransax. Steve Swallows obertonreicher Elektrobass umturtelt dieses Geschehen […] ein Opus voll unerwarteter Wendungen, mit tiefer innerer Harmonie und der für das annähernd gesamte Werk Bleys typischen Melancholie. Wie diese drei in der klanglich perfekten Produktion miteinander kommunizieren, wie sie Räume öffnen und schließen, zählt zum Feinsten im komponierten Jazz der letzten Jahre.
Werner Stiefele, Stereoplay
‘Trios’ is the definitive document of a chamberlike trio she has led on the road for the last 20 years, with her longtime partner Steve Swallow on bass, and Andy Sheppard on tenor and soprano saxophones. It’s also a good distillation of her language, an argument for its unforced insight and plainspoken grace.
All the music on ‘Trios’ has been recorded elsewhere over the years, which accounts for the album’s air of retrospection. Because most previous versions featured larger ensembles, there’s also a sense of reduction, as if the album were an exhibition of preparatory sketches. But the album isn’t a side note, because Ms. Bley and her band mates bring so much life to their interactions, with one another and with the material. [...] Ms. Bley’s calmly interrogatory pianism is matched to Mr. Swallow’s springy electric bass sound, and they have a straight man in Mr. Sheppard: his dry melancholy in ‘Utviklingssang’, a Nordic-inspired ballad, would be hard to top.
Remarkably this is the first album Ms. Bley has ever made with a producer: Manfred Eicher, the founder of ECM, which has been her distributor but never her label home. And it’s no slight to suggest that Mr. Eicher serves as a fourth artistic presence on ‘Trios’, because the end result presents Ms. Bley’s vision so clearly.
Nate Chinen, The New York Times
As the almost 20-year-old partnership between composer/pianist Carly Bley, bass guitarist Steve Swallow and British saxist Andy Sheppard has evolved, Bley the reluctant pianist has grown more assured, and the tonally subtle Sheppard more minimal, while Swallow holds the music in shape with his flawlessly purring lines. Bley has always self-produced, so this session under ECM boss Manfred Eicher’s direction is a first – he chose her themes, from classics such as ‘Utviklingssang’ or the 50-year-old ‘Vashkar’ to reworkings of later pieces inclding the suites ‘Les Trois Lagons’ and ‘Wildlife’.
John Fordham, The Guardian
While ‘Trios’ does not represent any great departure from her usual strategies, there’s a purity of purpose here that, coupled with Manfred Eicher’s uncluttered production, results in a cool, clear aesthetic statement that is very effective [...] while Bley’s spare, Monk-ish pianism and Steve Swallow’s guitar-like bass-playing are outstanding, the real star is saxophonist Andy Sheppard, who excels on both slow, impeccably controlled melody lines and fill-on passion.
Phil Johnson, Independent on Sunday