"Without Paul Bley, there would be no Keith Jarrett" is conventional jazz wisdom perhaps, but worth repeating. Bley's expansive and unfettered approach to the keyboard (acoustic and electric) has provided a viable alternative for generations of artists seeking a creative path beyond the kinetic tendencies of Bley's principle peer, Cecil Taylor.
Bley, now 75, made his recording debut with Charlie Parker in 1953. Exploring an endless variety of aesthetic concepts and instrumental line-ups over the years, he has developed a visionary approach to instrumentation and concepts of accompaniment. The past two decades have found him focusing on intimate acoustic sessions, much like this duet, which features young Danish drummer Kresten Osgood.
Ably supporting Sam Rivers on Purple Violets (Stunt, 2005) and Violet Violets (Stunt, 2005), the thirty year-old Osgood has also collaborated with Oliver Lake, John Tchicai and Dr. Lonnie Smith. His accompaniment here is sensitive, subtle, and far more reserved than his interplay with Rivers.
A mix of solo pieces and duets, Florida is evenly split between Osgood and Bley, who each contribute three unaccompanied compositions. Osgood's percussion workouts are colorful investigations of texture and dynamics. Handsomely melodic, "True Blue and Gold" uses simmering percussive accents to invoke a dreamy kaleidoscopic sound world.
Bley's singular delivery is typically economic, melding unorthodox cadences with impressionistic harmonies. "Darkness" and "Backlash" demonstrate his confident pacing, drifting between tension and romance with leisurely timing. The linear propulsion of "Fluid Head" is more immediate, conjuring pensive lyricism from succinct angular variations.
Four longer pieces feature the duo's attentive listening and cautious interaction. "Meeting of the Minds" is ascetic abstraction, "Told You So" traffics in fragmentary thematic interplay and "Arches" paints a plaintive melody. Marvelously irreverent, their rollicking deconstruction of "All The Things You Are" is an album highlight.
Florida is subtle and abstract; at times beautiful, at others willfully difficult, its rewards are attainable for those willing to invest the time.
Visit Paul Bley and Kresten Osgood on the web.
Personnel: Paul Bley: piano; Kresten Osgood: drums.