315

Paul Bley: Solo in Mondsee

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
Paul Bley: Solo in Mondsee Paul Bley will be seventy-five in November, 2007 and has been recording for over fifty years, taking part in every revolution in jazz since 1950. Famously competitive and a tireless introspector, Bley is recognizable not so much by a particular style, but by his restless attitude and intensity, and perhaps the solidity of each note played.

The wonderful and quite entrancing Solo in Mondsee is the result of Bley's relationship with the ECM label, which goes back almost to its inception with the album Paul Bley With Gary Peacock (ECM, 1970) and his solo album, Open, to Love (ECM, 1972). However, he has made many more recordings (solo and not) for other labels (including his own, Improvising Artists), and notably SteepleChase.

Solo In Mondsee has something of a summing-up feel about it, as Bley spins ten improvisations by himself, for himself. The piano, a Bösendorfer Imperial Grand, is magnificent and the recording technically superb. A good playback system will render a real piano in real space, and Bley makes it sing, with the piano as a percussive instrument repressed.

The improvisations are not given names, but merely numbered, and yet they each have a personality, a central concept. Starting with a low-end crash that sounds like distant thunder which is allowed to slowly die away, Bley most certainly gets your attention immediately. "I" has an air of romanticism and melancholy about it, perhaps being a musical memory of a rainy day.

In general, the music has the feel of tonality—or at least a tonal center—about it, but most of the time in a gauzy way, thus making a clear progression jump out at the listener, especially an ending cadence that marks a tonality that, in retrospect, is now apparent.

Each improvisation centers on a different, clearly audible musical idea. The playing is accessible because Bley repeats these motives, many times changing the harmony, thereby creating a recognizable structure. The overall rhythm is generally not fixed, but sections do have a pulse.

The music's romanticism comes from the playing style of right hand melody supported by left hand chords (rolled or arpeggiated), the singing quality of the melodies that flow from Bley, and the way the harmony is extended, creating lushness. In sum, the word "beautiful" is easy to apply to much of the music as real melodies combine with lush harmony.

A key factor that allows the user to get inside the music is that there is a rigorous improvisational logic ever present. Bley has spoken about a "tape loop" in his head that precludes him repeating himself or others. The music that does come out manages to sound planned and improvised simultaneously, and this is part of its attractiveness and power.

In Solo in Mondsee, Bley has produced music that can be enjoyed on many levels, many times over, and is a fitting document of this master improviser.


Track Listing: Mondsee Variations I-X.

Personnel: Paul Bley: piano.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Juggling Kukla" CD/LP/Track Review Juggling Kukla
by John Sharpe
Published: June 19, 2016
Read "Binary & Mysteries of the Deep" CD/LP/Track Review Binary & Mysteries of the Deep
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 20, 2016
Read "#knowingishalfthebattle" CD/LP/Track Review #knowingishalfthebattle
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "Proximity" CD/LP/Track Review Proximity
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 30, 2016
Read "Time Out" CD/LP/Track Review Time Out
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: July 9, 2016
Read "Migration" CD/LP/Track Review Migration
by Budd Kopman
Published: July 20, 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!