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Articles | Featured | Future

BEST OF / YEAR END

Dan McClenaghan's Best Releases of 2014

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It's that time to wrap it up and make some choices on the top jazz releases of the year. Here are my picks for the best of 2014, in no particular order, with the exception of the first listing, pianist Paul Bley's disc, which stands out. I do love piano jazz. Paul BleyPlay Blue ECM Records Pianist Paul Bley's career got started in the 1950s, and he has recorded scores of albums--many of them ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Paul Bley: Play Blue

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Pianist Paul Bley, born in 1932, began his jazz career in the 1950's, working with every one from saxophonists Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, and Ornette Coleman, as well as clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre and trumpeter Chet Baker, and more legends of the time than can be listed here. He has, under his own name, made over a hundred recordings, in every style. The most often mentioned of these scores of recordings are two solo piano sets for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Paul Bley / Franz Koglmann / Gary Peacock: Annette

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Those familiar with the music of Paul Bley, as well as Annette Peacock--after whom this album is named, and whose compositions are featured--will recall the nervy sense of creativity that flowed through their veins and music. In fact, the manner in which Peacock's work is described also fits Bley; both play music that is austere, exacting, somewhat laconic, minimalist and always wildly individual, which is what makes it so sensual, singular and utterly memorable. And while Bley's music has always ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Paul Bley: Barrage

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At times circumstance conspires to hide a masterpiece: it may be the artist's lack of reputation; perhaps it doesn't resemble his more typical works or it's just overshadowed by more prominent or better promoted music. Paul Bley's Barrage is such a work. Produced in 1964 when most of the band was unknown, it's a singularly non-lyrical and non-spacious work by a pianist celebrated for those qualities; further, it was issued in the midst of Coltrane and Ayler's greatest statements. Nonetheless, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Paul Bley: Barrage

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Music performed by Paul Bley is always an event of great import--no matter where or when, or in what context it is performed. But with Barrage this was the roaring '60s. Charlie Parker, who had set the world on fire, had left a meteoric legacy and in the after-burn came the smoldering avant-garde. Ornette Coleman may have defined part of the leading edge of the harmolodic music of the day, but it was the rhythmic invention that bound the melody. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Paul Bley: Barrage

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Recorded a year earlier than the previous ESP re-released Paul Bley Trio session, Closer (ESP Disk, 2008), Barrage takes an approach that tends toward the frenetic. In fact, judging from the very beginning of the record when the trumpet and sax synchronize in a group of short phrase spurts ("Batterie"), the music seems to deconstruct bebop, go on diverse tangents and then conclude in a synchronous reprise. Such a pattern exists throughout all of the pieces on the record.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Paul Bley Quintet: Barrage

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Pianist Paul Bley recorded two albums for ESP Disk. The first was Barrage in 1964, the second was Closer in 1965. On the first Bley used Marshall Allen (alto sax), Dewey Johnson (trumpet), Eddie Gomez (bass) and Milford Graves (percussion). The latter was a more intimate outing with Steve Swallow (bass) and Barry Altschul (percussion). If there was a common thread besides Bley, it was the use of compositions by Carla Bley. Barrage was devoted completely to her music and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Paul Bley: About Time

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Paul Bley Trio: Closer

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Pianist Paul Bley is an innovator whose imagination eclipses the norm. He never wavers from a challenge and there is always an air of expectancy each time Bley sits at the piano. He is comfortable in any setting and his music has been shaped by several peers. Among them were Sonny Rollins, Carla Bley, Jimmy Giuffre, Charles Mingus, Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman.

In the final analysis, however, it is his vision that propels the music ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii featuring Paul Bley: Something About Water

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Pianist Paul Bley was one of pianist Satoko Fujii's teachers at the New England Conservatory of Music, which she attended on scholarship in 1993. Upon attaining her Graduate Diploma in Jazz Performance, she recorded the delicately beautiful and mysterious Something About Water (Libra, 1996), that has Bley playing with her on eight of the eleven tracks of free improvisation. While this release can be considered her debut recording, it is a fully mature effort where teacher and ...