113

Paul Bley: Basics

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Jazz enthuasiasts who value the true innovators of the music are fortunate that Paul Bley is still pushing its boundaries through the inventions of a single instrument. Bley's style is so explorative and idiosyncratic—as was Monk's—that his imagination seems to continually consider and savor ideas, as one would value a work of art. Once the consideration process is through, Bley embellishes even the simplest idea and makes it part of his broader body of thought. For example, "Told You So" takes a sing-songy motive and elucidates the nuggets of entertainment and harmonic possibilities within it, even as he enriches the phrase and adds humor to it.

Basics presents Bley in his fourth solo outing on Justin Time Records, and perhaps Bley alone is the best way to appreciate him. His hard-to-pin-down tonal centers and his unpredictability as he employs the full keyboard for complex expression has inspired successive piano masters like Fred Hersch and Keith Jarrett. The freedom in Bley's style, even as he references the original intent of a song, releases the pianist from written and even harmonic constraints. As Herbie Hancock told Larry Willis, "Remember that the octave consists of twelve tones," meaning that the augmentation of chords and their resolutions can assume twists and turns of the musician's choosing. Utterly unconventional, Bley perceived and practiced this aesthetic before Hancock was recording, Bley expanding his tonal pallette through whatever means possible such as his early ventures into electronics.

Unlike Bley's ECM recording, Not Two, Not One, Basics presents a more relaxed and less thunderous Bley, who retains his signature looseness and closely knit chords before they splinter into rivulets and floods of sound.

Perhaps one of the most interesting tunes on Basics is Monk's Mood. What would Bley do to interpret the tune? The listener already knows that he won't re-create the tune through Monk's style. Rather, Bley smooths out the jaggedness of the tune and expands its rhythm freedom, taking one measure and altering it several times in wonder.

It seems that Bley names his tunes according to the mood that he intends to express. We have "Startled," which perversely doesn't startle the listener at all. Instead, it proceeds in an ebb and flow as a quasi-ballad form. That is, the tune undergoes so many unanticipated modulations that it couldn't be sung, in spite of its reassuring tenor. "Walk Home" also defies expectations, perhaps because the walks that Bley describes are more ruminative and slower than, say, most city-dwellers'. If the imagery created by the tune were descriptive, then Bley's walks would be all-absorbing and thoughtful, taking in the colors and energy and ambiance of each block. Then, "Love Lost" sparingly contains a tentative brightness that one wouldn't expect as well.

Like any other true artist, Bley continues to grow and investigate, and Basics shares the complexity of his thought conveyed through his medium of expression.

http://www.justin-time.com


Track Listing: Love Lost, Basics, Speed Kills, Told You So, Lucky, Chet, Walk Home, Blues Waltz, Monk's Mood, Early Alben, Startled

Personnel: Paul Bley, piano

| Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Honest Woman CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "The Magnificent Thad Jones" CD/LP/Track Review The Magnificent Thad Jones
by Greg Simmons
Published: November 10, 2016
Read "Lello's Italian Job, Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Lello's Italian Job, Vol. 1
by Jim Olin
Published: September 9, 2016
Read "Vars & Kaper:Deconstruction" CD/LP/Track Review Vars & Kaper:Deconstruction
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 29, 2016
Read "Playgrounds" CD/LP/Track Review Playgrounds
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Arclight" CD/LP/Track Review Arclight
by Doug Collette
Published: March 5, 2016
Read "Got A Mind to Give Up Living: Live 1966" CD/LP/Track Review Got A Mind to Give Up Living: Live 1966
by Doug Collette
Published: June 11, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!