Escalator over the Hill

Escalator over the Hill (or EOTH) is mostly referred to as a jazz opera, but it was released as a "chronotransduction" with "words by Paul Haines, adaptation and music by Carla Bley, production and coordination by Michael Mantler", performed by the Jazz Composer's Orchestra.

Escalator over the Hill
Studio album by
GenreAvant-garde jazz, post-bop, folk opera
LabelJCOA Records (LP)
ProducerMichael Mantler
Jazz Composer's Orchestra chronology
The Jazz Composer's Orchestra
Escalator over the Hill
Relativity Suite
Carla Bley chronology
Jazz Realities
Escalator over the Hill
Tropic Appetites
Professional ratings
Review scores
All About Jazz(favorable)[1]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide[4]


Escalator over the Hill is more than an hour and a half long and was recorded over three years (1968 to 1971). It was originally released as a triple LP box which also contained a booklet with lyrics, photos and profiles of the musicians. Side six of the original LPs ended in a locked groove, the final track "...And It's Again" continuing infinitely on manual record players. (For the CD reissue, the hum is allowed to play for almost 20 minutes before slowly fading out.)

In 1997, a live version of Escalator over the Hill, re-orchestrated by Jeff Friedman, was performed for the first time in Cologne, Germany. In 1998, "Escalator" toured Europe. Another live performance took place in May 2006 in Essen, Germany.

The musicians involved in the original recording play in various combinations, covering a wide range of musical genres, from Kurt Weill's theater music, to free jazz, rock and Indian music. Writer Stuart Broomer considers this to be a summing up "much of the creative energy that was loose between 1968 and 1972".[5]

Viva acts as narrator. Jack Bruce also appears on bass and vocals (due to the album's long production, he also appeared on Frank Zappa's album Apostrophe, playing bass on the title track). Among the vocalists is a young (and still relatively unknown) Linda Ronstadt, in addition to Jeanne Lee, Paul Jones, Carla Bley, Don Preston, Sheila Jordan, and Bley's and Mantler's then-4-year-old daughter Karen Mantler.


Jonathon Cott's Rolling Stone article stated "Like an electric transformer, Escalator Over the Hill synthesizes and draws on an enormous range of musical materials – raga, jazz, rock, ring modulated piano sounds, all brought together through Carla Bley's extraordinary formal sense and ability to unify individual but diverse musical sections by means of the editing of the record medium... The opera is an international musical encounter of the first order."[6]

Marcello Carlin, writing for Stylus Magazine, considers the album to be "the greatest record ever made." He said: "No protest, no social commentary. No expression of love, of grief, of hope, of despair. It is literally whatever you want to make of it. It is devoid of every quality which you might assume would qualify it to be the greatest of all records. And yet it is that tabula rasa in its heart, the blank space which may well exist at the very heart of all music, revealing the hard truth that we have to fill in the blanks, we have to interpret what is being played and sung, and our interpretation is the only one which can possibly be valid, as we cannot discern any perspective other than our own."[7]

Track listing

Side one

  1. "Hotel Overture" – 13:11

Side two

  1. "This Is Here..." – 6:02
  2. "Like Animals" – 1:21
  3. "Escalator over the Hill" – 4:57
  4. "Stay Awake" – 1:31
  5. "Ginger and David" – 1:39
  6. "Song to Anything That Moves" – 2:22

Side three

  1. "Eoth Theme" – 0:35
  2. "Businessmen" – 5:38
  3. "Ginger and David Theme" – 0:57
  4. "Why" – 2:19
  5. "It's Not What You Do" – 0:17
  6. "Detective Writer Daughter" – 3:16
  7. "Doctor Why" – 1:28
  8. "Slow Dance (Transductory Music)" – 1:50
  9. "Smalltown Agonist" – 5:24

Side four

  1. "End of Head" – 0:38
  2. "Over Her Head" – 2:38
  3. "Little Pony Soldier" – 4:36
  4. "Oh Say Can You Do?" – 1:11
  5. "Holiday in Risk" – 3:10
  6. "Holiday in Risk Theme" – 0:52

Side five

  1. "A.I.R. (All India Radio)" – 3:58
  2. "Rawalpindi Blues" – 12:44

Side six

  1. "End of Rawalpindi" – 9:40
  2. "End of Animals" – 1:26
  3. "... And It's Again" – 9:55
  • "... And It's Again" would later be expanded to a length of 27:17 for CD release, with 17:23 minutes of the humming sound found on the inner groove of the LP.


Principal cast

Jane Blackstone, Carla Bley, Jonathan Cott, Sharon Freeman, Steve Gebhardt, Tyrus Gerlach, Eileen Hale, Rosalind Hupp, Jack Jeffers, Howard Johnson, Sheila Jordan, Michael Mantler, Timothy Marquand, Nancy Newton, Tod Papageorge, Don Preston, Bill Roughen, Phyllis Schneider, Bob Stewart, Pat Stewart, Viva

Musicians (alphabetical)

Musicians (chronotransductional)

Orchestra (& Hotel Lobby Band)

  • Carla Bley (piano)
  • Jimmy Lyons (alto saxophone)
  • Gato Barbieri (tenor saxophone)
  • Chris Woods (baritone saxophone)
  • Michael Mantler, Enrico Rava (trumpet)
  • Roswell Rudd, Sam Burtis, Jimmy Knepper (trombone)
  • Jack Jeffers (bass trombone)
  • Bob Carlisle, Sharon Freeman (French horn)
  • John Buckingham (tuba)
  • Nancy Newton (viola)
  • Karl Berger (vibraphone)
  • Charlie Haden (bass)
  • Paul Motian (drums)
  • Roger Dawson (congas)
  • Bill Morimando (orchestra bells, celeste).

Jack's Traveling Band

  • Carla Bley (organ)
  • John McLaughlin (guitar)
  • Jack Bruce (bass)
  • Paul Motian (drums)

Desert Band

  • Carla Bley (organ)
  • Don Cherry (trumpet)
  • Souren Baronia (clarinet)
  • Leroy Jenkins (violin)
  • Calo Scott (cello)
  • Sam Brown (guitar)
  • Ron McClure (bass)
  • Paul Motian (dumbec)

Original Hotel Amateur Band

  • Carla Bley (piano)
  • Michael Snow (trumpet)
  • Michael Mantler (valve trombone)
  • Howard Johnson (tuba)
  • Perry Robinson, Peggy Imig (clarinet)
  • Nancy Newton (viola)
  • Richard Youngstein (bass)
  • Paul Motian (drums)

Phantom Music

  • Carla Bley (organ, celeste, chimes, calliope)
  • Michael Mantler (prepared piano)
  • Don Preston (Moog synthesizer)


  • Jazz Album of the Year 1972 by a Melody Maker Readers Poll
  • French Grand Prix du Disque in 1973


  1. MacLaren, Trevor (2011). "Carla Bley and Paul Haines: Escalator Over the Hill". Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  2. Ginell, Richard S. (2011). "Escalator Over the Hill – Carla Bley | AllMusic". Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  3. Carlin, Marcello (2011). "Stranded: Escalator Over the Hill – Article – Stylus Magazine". Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  4. Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 26. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  5. Escalator Over the Hill. Editorial review by Stuart Broomer at, retrieved on 2008-09-23
  6. Cott, J., 'Escalator': Grand, Horse & Jazz Opers Rolling Stone, March 4, 1971 p.10
  7. Carlin, Marcello (1 September 2003). "Stranded: Escalator Over the Hill". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on 9 September 2003. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
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