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Label: JUST // Jazz, Piano // 2008-06-01
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Time Records is proud to announce the release of
There may seem to be a certain irony in Bley's predilection for performing solo so often at this stage of his remarkable career. Not only has he performed with some of the most adventurous, iconoclastic and original artists in jazz - from early immortals like Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young to the bebop-and-beyond groundbreakers Charlie Parker,
So how does someone so involved in the collaborative process that is so central to the concept of organizational unity needed to both create music in the more synergistically demanding (and poorly-named) avant-garde genre, and affect change in the overall artistic environment, choose to pursue such a personal and solitary course? Essentially, it's really just the logical evolution of the path to self-discovery and creative freedom that were the central themes of those earlier endeavors. About Time shouts that out in no uncertain terms.
From the opening statements of the 33+ minute title piece, the words virtuosic, brilliant, introspective, lyrical, adventurous, challenging, intelligent and individual all come quickly to mind. This is not music that can be described in terms of compositions, styles, motifs or rhythmic structures. Rather, it contains all of these elements in a constantly evolving structure in which every idea spawns five new ones.
Filigreed lyricism at the upper range of the keyboard may be interrupted by thunderously rhythmic chords at the bottom end, maybe even for the briefest of interludes, simply setting up another cascade of sheer beauty a moment later. A soft whisper in the ear may erupt into a confrontational grabbing by the lapels, but what may seem to be a startling change of direction quickly reveals it to be total continuity in the grand plan of a master improviser.
In the blink of an eye, deeply resonant and deliberate single notes at the bottom end of the keyboard launch breathtaking runs of fluid lyricism at the other end. Flights of liberated fancy resolve in thunderously rhythmic chord clusters, then slowly evolve into exquisitely crafted songs of highly emotional, but never syrupy, lyricism. Abruptly, these can erupt into jagged forays of highly challenging and adventurous atonality for a moment before seamlessly weaving back into the most compelling passages of sheer beauty. This music is not restricted by time in a traditional sense, but never loses the sense of rhythm and flow that is essential to all jazz, as stated so succinctly by Duke Ellington: "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing."
As would be expected from a piano master of the total jazz tradition, the entire jazz piano vernacular is woven into this performance, but not in an obvious manner by displaying some stride here and then some Powell-ish bebop there, with some Tatum-styled runs along the way. Instead, those elements are woven inextricably into the overall creative pattern, revealing them in a brief moment within the total context of what is essentially as much a composition as if it had been written rather than improvised.
Bley's take on
For fans of Paul Bley, of solo piano, or of purely exhilarating inspired improvisational musicality, About Time is a highly rewarding experience.