Paul Bley / Gary Peacock / Paul Motian: When Will The Blues Leave

Karl Ackermann BY

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Paul Bley / Gary Peacock / Paul Motian: When Will The Blues Leave
Had Paul Bley, Gary Peacock and Paul Motian recorded together more consistently, they would have been considered among the best piano trios in modern jazz history. The three first recorded on the ECM collection Paul Bley with Gary Peacock (1970), a compilation from the 1960s where three of the eight tracks had Billy Elgart on drums. It would be decades before the trio reunited in the studio, and again, ECM captured the session, Not Two, Not One (1998). When Will The Blues Leave, from that same period of time, was recorded live in 1999, at Lugano's Aula Magna in 1999 at the Great Hall of University of Lugano, Italy.

When Will The Blues Leave is the first posthumous release of new Bley material since his passing in 2016. The Canadian-born pianist/composer is considered by some to be one of the most important innovators in jazz music. His musical associations date to work in the 1950s with Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus. He was a pioneer in the fusion of jazz and electronics, a tireless explorer of new music, technique, and an educator and mentor. There are none of the typical parameters with a rhythm section of Peacock and Motian; they were, by this time, highly regarded composers and leaders whose individual ideas were incorporated into any setting in which they worked. Peacock, most famous for the Keith Jarrett trio, has worked with many legendary pianists including Bill Evans, Mal Waldron, Marilyn Crispell and Marc Copland. Motian had worked in those same circles, at times, with Peacock.

The trio reaches back to the 1960s for the opener, "Mazatlan," which first appeared on Bley's Ramblin' (BYG, 1969). At more than eleven-minutes, it's a deep dive into Bley's early avant-garde phase. There are slower paced tunes such as "Flame" and "Told You So" from Bley's solo albums Tears (Owl, 1984) and Basics (Justin Time, 2001), and the Peacock/Bley composition "Dialogue Amour" from Not Two, Not One. The sophistication and creative skills of Peacock and Motian are on full display in these pieces as they establish interchanges, break off, and return with new ideas. Ornette Coleman's title track is an astoundingly knotty and energetic lead up to the closing tune, a beautifully quirky "I Loves You, Porgy."

It's difficult for piano trios to distinguish themselves in that most common of jazz formations, but When Will The Blues Leave could have been a defining moment for this unit. Their juxtaposition of lyricism and free improvisation within single pieces, and in real time, is challenging listening, but this elite group of artists have left us with a scrapbook of stunning ideas.

Track Listing

Mazatlan; Flame; Told You So; Moor; Longer; Dialogue Amour; When Will The Blues Leave; I Loves You, Porgy.


Paul Bley: piano; Gary Peacock: double bass; Paul Motian: drums.

Album information

Title: When Will The Blues Leave | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ECM Records

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