336

Paul Bley: Closer

Lyn Horton By

Sign in to view read count
Piano music has various personalities. It can be extroverted, jamming and far-reaching. It can be self-referential and have form that evolves only as it is played. It can be rigorously confined to form and fit well within conventional or traditional labels that have been assigned to it. Or it can be introverted and mindful, and beg to be embraced while being embracing.

The piano art of Paul Bley with his trio is the latter. This is more than evident on the ESP Disk re-release Closer. These brief pieces were recorded in 1965.

ESP has chosen the right record to reissue because it shows how Bley could and wanted to step away from the music he was accustomed to playing, having been associated with some of the most well-known musicians of his time, notably Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and Ornette Coleman. Carla Bley, married to Paul Bley from 1957-67, composed nearly all of the ten pieces on this record; the exceptions being Coleman's "Crossroads," Annette Peacock's "Cartoon" and the pianist's own "Figfoot."

Bley places the piano in front of the music every time. Steve Swallow's bass pizzicatos and Barry Altschul's drum work fall in and out of the background, and keep the piano in the best of company.

Having alternated the introductory theme through chords and melody, once Bley dramatically runs down the keys, mounting a crescendo on the opening "Ida Lupino," the intimacy of the music to come is immediately captivating. Bley's playing is totally distinctive, hitting every note clearly and precisely, even playing two notes at a time, with an energy that clips along and is not about to dissipate into lethargy when its tempo slows. In fact, when the tempo does slow, he examines the notes that much more carefully, optimizing the dynamic of what follows. Bley comes very close to clustering at times, when he moves through note sequences. His sense of timing is impeccable; his sense of melody, exquisite. He carries the weight of the trio just as easily as he flies through the music.

Altschul's drumming is active; his sticks are constantly moving. When he lands on the snare or bass drum, it is squarely, quickly and without much reverberation. He is not necessarily a rhythm keeper. Neither is Swallow. His fingers are focused on extending the piano notes and when he is given a lead on "Batterie," he concentrates on making a way to bend pitches that opens the door for the piano's re-emergence.

Reissues of original recordings from the days when improvised music was evolving, in ways that were unanticipated during the hard bop era, bear significance. They are a reminder that improvisation is far from being a process to which no one can relate. The fact that these recordings share a presence with how improvised music has developed over forty years improves general acceptance of its creation. The music is beautiful, tuneful and entirely accessible.


Track Listing: Ida Lupino; Start; Closer; Sideways In Mexico; Batterie; And Now The Queen; Figfoot; Crossroads; Violin; Cartoon.

Personnel: Paul Bley: piano; Steve Swallow: bass; Barry Altschul: drums.

Title: Closer | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ESP Disk


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Signal 9 CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Someone Else" CD/LP/Track Review Someone Else
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 27, 2017
Read "Sunset" CD/LP/Track Review Sunset
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 1, 2017
Read "Collage of Moments" CD/LP/Track Review Collage of Moments
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: February 17, 2017
Read "Have Yourself An Alto Madness Christmas" CD/LP/Track Review Have Yourself An Alto Madness Christmas
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 21, 2017
Read "Original Demos" CD/LP/Track Review Original Demos
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: June 8, 2017
Read "Afro-Caribbean Mixtape" CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.