Not Two, Not One is the first recording featuring Paul Bley, Paul Motian and Gary Peacock as a working unit since Bley’s 1970 ECM recording titled, “Paul Bley with Gary Peacock”. Twenty-nine years later they reunite as the overall results prove to be substantially rewarding. Aided by ECM’s trademark pristine sound quality and masterful engineering by James Farber, these gentlemen once again display the meritorious attributes befitting of their respective importance in modern jazz history.
On “Not Zero: In Three Parts”, Bley investigates the lower ranges of his piano with his left hand while constructing a melody that unfolds featuring swirling clusters and rich harmonies as he achieves near flawless symmetry, amid various angles. Here, Bley is the lab scientist devising formulas and equations as the rhythm section of Motian (d) and Peacock (b) emerge and propagate loose frisky rhythms as if they were floating in air. On “Fig Foot”, Bley has a blast merging disparate themes while incorporating motifs that at times, include a dash or two of the blues as Motian and Peacock know the economy of rhythms via their combined stylistic approach and artful execution. Motian is liable to drop a few bombs yet maintains the weaving flow through his crafty, multi-colored cymbal work. Throughout, Motian and Peacock expertly shift the rhythms, every which way! Bley’s melding of abstracts and richly textured harmonies continues on “Vocal Tracked” as he bridges the gap between the “outside” and mainstream balladry while employing poignant melodies – as Bley is a master at toying with our senses.
Paul Bley is an expert at merging lush romanticism with avant-garde or free jazz improvisation. Few are better at this game than Bley who remains within a class of his own.......On “Set Up Set” Gary Peacock shares the lead with Bley as this piece progresses nicely via alternating motifs, while the men jab, spar and gracefully create a tune that evolves from a fabric of incidental motifs! - Artistry in motion and music magic - ....
“Don’t You Know” is probing, sentimental and climactic as a brief fifty-five second reprise of “Not Zero; In One Part” closes out this impressive recording. While not quite as serious minded as some might surmise, Not Two, Not One celebrates the reunion of three musicians who have respectively added a few significant chapters to this legacy we call jazz! * * * * 1/2