The first posthumous Bley release since his passing in 2016, When Will The Blues Leave
is a true dance of inquisitive equals. Recorded live at Lugano's Aula Magna in Switzerland in March of 1999, Paul Bley
, Gary Peacock
and Paul Motian
celebrate their decades-long friendship and the virtuoso inspiration first heard on the trio's ever-exquisite reunion of sorts Not Two, Not One
(ECM, 1998). It is a reunion of sorts, for the trio can be heard on five tracks from 1963 on Paul Bley with Gary Peacock
Though the trio of curious explorers chooses not to present what was then their new work ("Dialogue Amour" being the sole representative from Not Two, Not One
) they do expand the palette with music from across their collective, far-flung CVs. Bley's "Mazatlan" opens When Will The Blues Leave
with an improvisatory energy that never lets up. First heard in 1966, Bley tempers his younger, avant-garde tendencies here, with a quick-witted, muscular melodicism that Peacock and Motian spark and upend, each rooted in the tune's playful center but well aware and unafraid of the many paths the song can take them down and vice versa. It is a splendidly revealing performance that, even at its glorious eleven minutes, is worth going back to time and time again.
Peacock's enlightened playing and touch both grace and center "Flame," as Bley re-imagines his mid-80's ballad with a tender, childlike whimsy. "Told You So" becomes an elegiac performance by Bley, his compatriots standing back, adding sparse nuances and depth. Reaching back forty years to their tentative origins, Peacock's tempo-limbered "Moor" opens the stage to even vaster horizons, as Bley's runs and chordal prompts push Motian's percussive minimalism to new heights. The weightless beauty of "Dialogue Amour" carries over from its recorded version, as Bley and Peacock free-associate at will, with Motian holding the floating center. The title track, written by Ornette Coleman
in 1958, when saxophonist and pianist shared the stage, is as rambunctious as the album's opening track, all three players driven to find new music within the sixty-year-old tune. That said, the closing "I Loves You, Porky" is an absolute gem, with Bley at his tender best, before leaning into the odd corners and unexpected turns of phrase he was a master of discovering. A more than outstanding document of a more than outstanding performance.