Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Paul Bley Quartet w/J. Surman B. Frisell P. Motian (1988)

This 1988 release was the second by this quartet (Fragments, their first, was released two years earlier). The set features compositions written by each of the players, with two contributions from Bley. The ensemble is well matched and the absence of a traditional rhythm section allows the musicians to play in and around open spaces (an approach in keeping with the group members' own releases). Bill Frisell's long and lingering notes peek out from behind Bley's piano, while John Surman's reeds wrap the whole in a rich, gauzy cloth. All the while drummer Paul Motian plays his kit with the quiet majesty of volcanic ash settling onto horizontal surfaces. Recorded in Norway at one of the producer's preferred studios, the sonic clarity is gorgeous (a hallmark of ECM releases). The title of Bley's "Interplay" invokes the key word that makes this music work so well.

track listing:

After Dark
One In Four


Payl Bley piano
John Surman soprano sax bass clarinet
Bill Frisell guitar
Paul Motian drums

Recorded at Rainbow Studio, Oslo, Norway in November 1987 ECM 1365

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Paul Bley - Films · Jazz 'n (e)motion

Sumptuous out-of-print solo Bley offering from RCA France's 1997 Jazz 'n (e)motion series where this master of understatement takes a peek at favorite film themes that have entered the jazz canon in the form of standards. Exquisite stuff.

track listing:

All The Things You Are
As Time Goes By
I Got Rhythm
Someday My Prince Will Come
What Is This Thing Called Love
It Might As Well Be Spring
Married Alive

Paul Bley - piano

rec. Paris 1997

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Paul Bley Trio - Closer (1965)

If the strident experimentation of free-jazz pioneers such as Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler railed against conventional ideas of chord voicing and fixed rhythmic accompaniment, pianist Paul Bley took a decidedly more understated approach to musical innovation. Bley's classic 1966 trio album for ESP-Disk, Closer, is a study in restraint. Moving confidently from melodic lyricism to explosive bursts of tone color, Bley and his compatriots--drummer Barry Altschul and bassist Steve Swallow--strike a pleasing balance between order and chaos, creating music as evocative as it is challenging. This offering, along with Barrage (see previous post) are Bley's classic free-form statements of the era.


Paul Bley (piano); Steve Swallow (bass); Barry Altschul (drums)

track listing:

1. Ida Lupino
2. Start
3. Closer
4. Sideways in Mexico
5. Batterie
6. And Now the Queen
7. Figfoot
8. Crossroads
9. Violin

rec. in NYC, December 12, 1965

Down Beat (6/93, p.48) - 4 Stars - Very Good - "...Compared to the previous year's ESP date, it is the calm after the storm, highlighting Bley's oblique lyricism, as well as his will-to-wail. Those twin attributes have stood Bley in good artistic stead over the years..."

Paul Bley Quintet - Barrage (1964)

What a difference in an artist's development a decade makes. Released originally in 1964, Paul Bley's Barrage is a creative, thoroughly satisfying free-jazz outing. For these six compositions, all by Carla Bley, the leader is joined by drummer Milford Graves, bassist Eddie Gomez, trumpeter Dewey Johnson and saxophonist Marshall Allen (of the Sun Ra Arkestra) for improvisations of an intense yet deeply considered nature.

In his piano playing, Bley seems to draw inspiration from Cecil Taylor, while the skittering dialogues between the instruments owe a debt to Ornette Coleman's early ensemble work. Yet there is something quite fresh and distinctive about the music on Barrage, thanks largely to the distinctive voices of each player, and the way these voices play off each other in skilled, thrilling ways.


Paul Bley (piano); Marshall Allen (alto saxophone); Dewey Johnson (trumpet); Eddie Gomez (bass); Milford Graves (percussion)

track listing:

1. Batterie
2. Ictus
3. And Now the Queen
4. Around Again
5. Walking Woman
6. Barrage

rec. in NYC October 20, 1964

Paul Bley - Introducing (1953)

Paul Bley was 21 years old when he recorded his first album in 1953. With Art Blakey on drums and Charles Mingus on bass (it was originally released on his Debut Records label), this finds Bley still working within the framework of bebop. This CD reissue adds four extra tracks and the alternate take it includes of Bley's own "Opus 1" is fascinating for what it reveals. In his soloing--different on each of the two takes--he can be heard using forceful but brief melodic fragments with little harmonic embellishment. He's continued to explore those possibilities on through the decades. However, it is remarkable to notice here, at the beginning of the young pianist's career, to hear Bley stepping out of the confines of the genre and to witness the development of his distinctive individual voice.


Paul Bley (piano); Charles Mingus (bass); Art Blakey (drums)

track listing:

1. Opus One
2. (Teapot) Walkin'
3. Like Someone in Love
4. Spontaneous Combustion
5. Split Kick
6. I Can't Get Started
7. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
8. Opus One [Alternate Take]
9. Theme
10. This Time the Dream's on Me
11. Zootcase

rec. 1953