It's that time to wrap it up and make some choices on the top jazz releases of the year. Here are my picks for the best of 2014, in no particular order, with the exception of the first listing, pianist Paul Bley's disc, which stands out. I do love piano jazz. Paul BleyPlay Blue ECM Records Pianist Paul Bley's career got started in the 1950s, and he has recorded scores of albums--many of them solo recordings like Play Blue and many of those extraordinary, with Solo in Mondsee (ECM, 2007) and Open, to Love ...read more
Pianist Paul Bley, born in 1932, began his jazz career in the 1950's, working with every one from saxophonists Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, and Ornette Coleman, as well as clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre and trumpeter Chet Baker, and more legends of the time than can be listed here. He has, under his own name, made over a hundred recordings, in every style. The most often mentioned of these scores of recordings are two solo piano sets for ECM Records, 1972's Open, To Love and Solo In Mondsee, recorded in 2001 and released in 2007. The former is ...read more
Those familiar with the music of Paul Bley, as well as Annette Peacock--after whom this album is named, and whose compositions are featured--will recall the nervy sense of creativity that flowed through their veins and music. In fact, the manner in which Peacock's work is described also fits Bley; both play music that is austere, exacting, somewhat laconic, minimalist and always wildly individual, which is what makes it so sensual, singular and utterly memorable. And while Bley's music has always been instrumental in nature, Peacock's was defined not just by the primal highs and lows of her voice, but also ...read more
At times circumstance conspires to hide a masterpiece: it may be the artist's lack of reputation; perhaps it doesn't resemble his more typical works or it's just overshadowed by more prominent or better promoted music. Paul Bley's Barrage is such a work. Produced in 1964 when most of the band was unknown, it's a singularly non-lyrical and non-spacious work by a pianist celebrated for those qualities; further, it was issued in the midst of Coltrane and Ayler's greatest statements. Nonetheless, it's one of the essential statements of free jazz, a necessary update on the music Bley played with Ornette Coleman ...read more
Music performed by Paul Bley is always an event of great import--no matter where or when, or in what context it is performed. But with Barrage this was the roaring '60s. Charlie Parker, who had set the world on fire, had left a meteoric legacy and in the after-burn came the smoldering avant-garde. Ornette Coleman may have defined part of the leading edge of the harmolodic music of the day, but it was the rhythmic invention that bound the melody. Eric Dolphy and Don Cherry unlocked the rhythmic secrets that Parker had invented and a few--like Carla and Paul Bley, ...read more
Recorded a year earlier than the previous ESP re-released Paul Bley Trio session, Closer (ESP Disk, 2008), Barrage takes an approach that tends toward the frenetic. In fact, judging from the very beginning of the record when the trumpet and sax synchronize in a group of short phrase spurts ("Batterie"), the music seems to deconstruct bebop, go on diverse tangents and then conclude in a synchronous reprise. Such a pattern exists throughout all of the pieces on the record.
The intensity of the rapid-fire pace of bebop sticks around. Even when pianist Bley assumes the lead, ...read more
Pianist Paul Bley recorded two albums for ESP Disk. The first was Barrage in 1964, the second was Closer in 1965. On the first Bley used Marshall Allen (alto sax), Dewey Johnson (trumpet), Eddie Gomez (bass) and Milford Graves (percussion). The latter was a more intimate outing with Steve Swallow (bass) and Barry Altschul (percussion). If there was a common thread besides Bley, it was the use of compositions by Carla Bley. Barrage was devoted completely to her music and Closer featured seven of her tunes out of the ten on the record.
Allen and Johnson came in ...read more