Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
191

Paul Bley: Nothing to Declare

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count Views
Paul Bley: Nothing to Declare While pianist Paul Bley is renowned as a free player with an almost allergic aversion to music on the printed page, that doesn't mean that he doesn't have roots, or is afraid to show them. On Nothing to Declare , his fifth solo recording for the Canadian Justin Time label, his background in blues and standards is in deep evidence even as he takes these influences and twists them back and forth, up and down, until they manage to be recognizable yet completely him. Bold yet completely accessible, this is a recording that stands in sharp contrast to more outer-reaching recordings including his ECM recordings with Evan Parker and Barre Phillips. Yet for all its lyrical bent, Nothing to Declare is no less artistically pure. Bley has never been known as one to compromise, and he isn't about to start now.

Bley's spontaneous improvisational style was inarguably a strong influence on Keith Jarrett in his formative years. But whereas Jarrett's solo excursions have often been inspired but occasionally meandering, Bley is sharply focused, with a sense of economy and attention that makes for absolutely no waste. He has the ability to create harmonic and/or rhythmic motifs with as simple an inspiration as a standard like "All the Things You Are," the foundation of the eighteen-minute title track. Periodically reiterating a simple but insistent rhythmic figure before heading off again into more impressionistic territory, Bley creates an homage that is all the more meaningful for its refusal to be constricted by the simple bounds of the source.

The three other pieces on Nothing to Declare demonstrate Bley's roots in the blues. While nothing resembling a standard blues form ever emerges, at least for long, Bley's heartfelt "Blues Waltz," "Breakdown," and "8th Avenue," which loosely references Fats Waller's "Black and Blue," all point to an artist for whom the blues has had significant meaning in his life and work.

For an artist who has over seventy recordings as a leader, and countless others as a guest, each recording by Bley manages to be a new experience, shedding light on an artist who, even in his eighth decade, is as fresh and revealing as he ever was. For those who think that purely improvised solo piano recitals start and finish with Keith Jarrett, Nothing to Declare offers firm evidence that one of Jarrett's primary influences is still hard at work, creating adventurous music that continues to define both the terms "in the moment" and "spontaneous composition."

Visit Paul Bley on the web.


Track Listing: Nothing to Declare; Breakdown; Blues Waltz; 8th Avenue

Personnel: Paul Bley (piano)

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Justin Time Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Best of / Year End
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Play Blue
Play Blue
ECM Records
2014
buy
Live At The Hillcrest Club 1958
Live At The Hillcrest...
Doxy Records
2014
buy
Annette
Annette
Hatology
2010
buy
Barrage
Barrage
ESP Disk
2009
buy
About Time
About Time
Justin Time Records
2008
buy
[no cover]
12 (+6) In A Row
Soul Note
2008
buy
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
Brad Mehldau Brad Mehldau
piano
McCoy Tyner McCoy Tyner
piano
Carla Bley Carla Bley
piano
Cecil Taylor Cecil Taylor
piano
Geri Allen Geri Allen
piano
Gary Burton Gary Burton
vibraphone

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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