In a league by himself, pianist Paul Bley's art is one that has involved taking the road less traveled. He uses the jazz vocabulary in a way that is distinctive and varies from the norm, much in the manner that Hemingway or Gertrude Stein created sentences and paragraphs that skirted typical conventions. For this new ECM release, Bley teams up with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian for the first time on record in several decades. The compatibility factor is particularly high, owing to the fact that Peacock and Motian were part of the Bill Evans trio, an early model for the type of innovation and rhythmic stretching that marks Bley's work.
There's a general brooding and dark character to much of the music here, with the first three tracks finding Bley experimenting with the extreme low register of the studio's Bosendorfer grand. Peacock and Motian skirt in and out of Bley's rugged explorations for what could serve as an excellent soundtrack for a piece of film noire. It's not until the fourth cut, a remake of Bley's "Fig Foot," that we get to hear the trio "swing" in any kind of conventional sense. More introspective ruminations follow, highlighted by the ballad "Noosphere," which shows off Bley's more lyrical and romantic side.
As an extension of the kinds of rhythmic innovations that Bill Evans was working towards (i.e. less implicit stating of the beat and more interactive statements from the bass and drums), this set is a complete success. Not Two, Not One is a formidable and uncompromising listen that demands your time and attention; background music it is not. Bley will not get rich or gain a large audience through this idiosyncratic mode of expression, but he's to be lauded for his efforts at pushing the envelope in a way that doesn't suggest chaos or anger.
Not Zero: In Three Parts, Entelechy, Now, Fig Foot, Vocal Tracked, Intente, Noosphere, Set Up Set, Dialogue Amour, Don't You Know, Not Zero: In One (62:37)
Paul Bley- piano, Gary Peacock- bass, Paul Motian- drums
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