Paul Bley: Nothing to Declare (2004)
Bley has always had a talent for bridging intellectual leaps within a perspective that remains direct and unassuming. These four pieces, spanning eight to eighteen minutes in length, allow the artist plenty of time to do his thing. Because he doesn't rush through the exercise, there's a sense of ideas being elaborated on the spot in a stepwise fashion, and you can follow that seeming stream of consciousnessness flow with your ear. Nothing to Declare has a very intimate sound; you can hear the mechanics of the piano and follow Bley quietly singing along. Because he pedals heavily, even closely guarded melodies acquire a more expasive harmonic cast, and regular shifts in overtones imply layers of texture that don't simply wash away when he lifts his foot or hands.
The title tune, based on "All The Things You Are," carries with it a sense of awe and wonder, something Bley cultivates through extended meditations. It's not the most extroverted music, to put it bluntly, but you don't have to strain yourself to get the message loud and clear. The remaining three pieces are similarly guarded and reverential, though they invoke more of the blues and an overt sense of drama. Bley's lyricism has never been blunt or simplistic, and Nothing to Declare is nothing to be glossed over with a superficial listen, but it's sufficiently natural that the spontaneous leaps in logic make good sense.
Visit Paul Bley on the web.
Track Listing: Nothing to Declare; Breakdown; Blues Waltz; 8th Avenue
Personnel: Paul Bley: solo piano
Record Label: Justin Time Records