Pianist Paul Bley has set many milestones along his illustrious career, taking the piano on undiscovered paths and fermenting his art with unbridled imagination. Risk has never daunted him, and even as he takes it, he keeps logic in lockstep.
He is as much at home in avant-garde and free explorations as he is in giving the mainstream a new sparkle, and for a time, even tinkering with electronics. The call to experiment is ever present, wrapped compactly into the history of jazz.
About Time is a solo recording. The pianist lures the listener into his web as he blends technique into the expanse of his creativity. Space and time are worked into a melodic dance, atonality sings besides formal structure, and harmony strikes a rich chord. His time signatures are shaped on the go as a pensive interlude can turn into a lithe romp when he traverses tangents with agile lines.
Bley's sense of invention never ceases, as on the title track where he works the blues seamlessly into the theme and then rustles it with a flurry of notes. He interpolates silence into his scheme as well as he does a lyrical flourish. Change is his compass, surprise his guide.
The mood on "Encore" is playful, setting an exuberant frame within which the artist skitters and gambols, draws back and reflects, and fathoms the deeper recesses of the blues. His artistry is upfront and center. With About Time it takes Bley less than 45 minutes to stamp his virtuosity.
I love jazz because it swings.
I was first exposed to jazz in Houston.
I met Joe LoCascio and Bob Henschen.
The best show I ever attended was Pat Martino.
The first jazz record I bought was Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
My advice to new listeners is to relax on 2 and 4 beats.