Jazz fans that are also history buffs know that once upon a time, jazz was actually a type of.... [deep breath] popular music. In the 1950’s, even after the Swing era abated, some big bands were to a degree very popular the ‘50s saw the Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras’ resurgence and Harry James and Stan Kenton enjoyed some popular success. With Appearing Nightly, ace composer/arranger/bandleader Carla Bley pays tribute to that era and the atmosphere of the nightclubs wherein bands performed.
Which is not to imply Appearing is a hunk of nostalgia or a collection of big band retreads. AN is all Bley originals save for Ray Noble’s "I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Till You" originals evoking that time period in a clever, slightly humorous, and (most importantly) heartfelt manner. There’s plenty of catchy themes, brightly blaring brass, trombones making with gritty bluesy growls, hard-swinging, darting unison writing for reeds, and plenty of genteel yet earnest swing. The (terse, to-the-point) soloing, however, is very modern based in bebop with occasional joyous "free" outbursts. Without being derivative, Bley & company has distilled the swing of Basie, the classy expressiveness of Ellington, the cleverness of (arranger/occasional bandleader) Neal Hefti, and the sophistication (and volume) of Kenton. Astute listeners may notice quotations from songs such as "Salt Peanuts" and "Watermelon Man." To put the warm chocolate syrup on this tasty sundae, AN was recorded live in a large nightclub in that City of Light, Paris. Bley joins such swells as Steven Bernstein and Skip Heller in that all-important (informal) faction whose to make jazz fun again! Get it? Get it.