RFI: Paul Bley

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so, while there are carla bley and annette peacock threads (whom i gather he was married to) searching reveals no paul bley thread. all i really know about him is that he's a canadian pianist. all i've really heard by him were some pieces using extended techniques in a history of jazz class i took. i thought the pieces were really good.
any info or recommendations about where to start with this guy? i know the 'extended technique' stuff is probably later work, but i'm totally open to any era. or is this dude basically worthless?

La Monte (La Monte), Friday, 9 February 2007 20:19 (twelve years ago) Permalink

No, not worthless at all! I'm no expert on his work, by of what I've heard my favorite stuff is his work with the Jimmy Giuffre 3 (also featuring Steve Swallow), as collected on ECM's "1961."

dylan (dylan), Friday, 9 February 2007 20:26 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Paul Bley - Live at the Hillcrest is all i've heard. The band includes a sprightly young duo named Coleman and Cherry. i found a vinyl copy recently and it's some awesome early Ornette!!!

outdoor_miner (outdoor_miner), Friday, 9 February 2007 21:52 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I really liked Barrage when I heard it but I don't have a copy.

I have an ECM record from a few years ago with him Peacock and Motian - a reunion of an older trio - very good stuff. It's called "Not Two, Not One"

I must confess I don't actually know what "extended techniques" means here.

A-ron Hubbard (Hurting), Friday, 9 February 2007 22:25 (twelve years ago) Permalink


Also check: the two albs he recorded for ESP in 64 - 'Barrage', an alb of all Carla Bley compositions feat. Marshall Allen on sax, Eddie Gomez on bass and Milford Graves on drums, and 'Turning Point' w/ Gary Peacock, Paul Motian and John Gilmore on tenor! (Bley often seems to attract v. v. classy collaborators - not only Ornette and Don but also Charles Mingus and Art Blakey v. early on his career.)

'Ramblin'', a trio alb he cut for BYG, features a great, sprightly cover of the Coleman title tune; the track can be found on that nice BYG triple set that Moore and Coley put together a few years back

Bley (and Annette Peacock's) experiments w/ electronic keyboards formed the basis of their group the Synthesiser Show: some of these recordings have been reished on disc in the US, three years or so ago, but a good comprehensive set wld be v. handy for a better, deeper pic. The stuff I've heard takes some getting used to - Sextant it ain't - but does suggest options/paths not taken developed when it came to the production of improvised music on non-acoustic instruments

More recently, Bley has recorded some great trio recs w/ Evan Parker and Barre Phillips for ECM in acoustically special locations (eg a European monastery.) They share a kind of chamber music sensibility w/ those superfine Giuffre trio albs mentioned by dylan

Bley is def. interesting for being a modernist/free pianist who doesn't obv. work under the sign of Cecil (his Monkish tendencies are more pronounced) and who truly seems to incorporate just abt every style of historical jazz/improv piano in his playing

Ward Fowler (Ward Fowler), Friday, 9 February 2007 22:41 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Paul Bley - Live at the Hillcrest is all i've heard. The band includes a sprightly young duo named Coleman and Cherry. i found a vinyl copy recently and it's some awesome early Ornette!!!

I'll be over in a few minutes.

Candy: tastes like chicken, if chicken was a candy. (Austin, Still), Friday, 9 February 2007 23:18 (twelve years ago) Permalink

A-Ron, 'extended techniques' involves plucking, manipulating the strings of the open piano, alternate tunings, etc. as far as i understand it. basically 'playing' the instruement beyond the way it is designed/meant to be played. (someone correct me if i'm wrong)

La Monte (La Monte), Saturday, 10 February 2007 01:17 (twelve years ago) Permalink

well, he often seems to have a lot of controlled sustain. So for me there's a feel i'd call "woody" or "organic" or "natural", where there are big spreads of notes, some sustained, sounding like everything played is part of some new big chord.

for some reason, i'd also call the sound "rounded". It's as though the avant tendencies center around chords that are augmented and sound rich, rather than spikey.

there's also something about the velocity of the notes, the way the keys seem to be struck slowly or fully.

for me Bley's appeal is a kind of fresh or honest love of the more obvious elements of the piano, whereas Taylor et. al. are more edgey, ironic, outside.

george gosset (gegoss), Saturday, 10 February 2007 08:49 (twelve years ago) Permalink

'Ramblin'', a trio alb he cut for BYG, features a great, sprightly cover of the Coleman title tune; the track can be found on that nice BYG triple set that Moore and Coley put together a few years back

Ramblin' and the other BYG alb Closer are two of my faves. The ECM solo alb Open, To Love is another. Barrage gets a ton of critical acclaim. If you like Ornette, you'll probably be open to Barrage. Ward describes Barrage & Turning Point to advantage.

J Arthur Rank (Quin Tillian), Saturday, 10 February 2007 13:49 (twelve years ago) Permalink

thanks guys, much appreciated. i'll check some of those records out.

La Monte (La Monte), Saturday, 10 February 2007 23:38 (twelve years ago) Permalink

re the synth period, didn't he also have an early 70s band called Scorpio?

don (dow), Sunday, 11 February 2007 05:42 (twelve years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
just got 'open, to love' and am listening to it now. it's really gorgeous.

LaMonte, Saturday, 24 March 2007 19:12 (eleven years ago) Permalink

eight years pass...


no lime tangier, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 05:04 (three years ago) Permalink


schlep and back trio (anagram), Tuesday, 5 January 2016 11:03 (three years ago) Permalink

Bummer. Loved Fragments in college and Open to Love is one of the best solo piano records ever. Must dig into his synthesizer stuff now.

Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 14:37 (three years ago) Permalink

RIP - a ton of stuff I've never dug into, but yeah, Open To Love is incredible.

tylerw, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 16:14 (three years ago) Permalink

I always loved this Ida Lupino (which, btw, was written by his wife):


on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Tuesday, 5 January 2016 16:15 (three years ago) Permalink

The whole Closer record is really good, and I also love a record he made with Motian/Peacock in the late 90s called Not Two Not One, and there's a lot of other good stuff, and a lot of stuff I haven't even explored.

on entre O.K. on sort K.O. (man alive), Tuesday, 5 January 2016 16:15 (three years ago) Permalink

just ordered this one on recommendation from a friend
live stuff from 65 and 66

tylerw, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 17:10 (three years ago) Permalink

A very overlooked player. I've always had a soft spot for this session:

May he rest well.

Austin, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 17:35 (three years ago) Permalink

I haven't heard too much besides Barrage, but I looove Barrage. And his interview/performance segments in Imagine The Sound (out of print on DVD, but I think it's on iTunes) are fascinating.


Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 6 January 2016 01:35 (three years ago) Permalink

Damn, RIP

lute bro (brimstead), Wednesday, 6 January 2016 01:50 (three years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

Usually not into trying to investigate the private lives of artists I like, but I've never been totally clear on something, and Google, oddly enough, turns up nothing: so Paul was married to Carla, played in a group with Annette and her husband Gary, who later divorced (?) and then Paul and Annette married? Assuming it was all very evolved and sophisticated, as (iirc) Gary P and Paul played together after this happened, and Paul (and Gary, I believe!) continued performing Carla's material until his death. Do I have this chronology right?

Paul Ponzi, Wednesday, 10 October 2018 19:05 (four months ago) Permalink

I think that's right and they both together as ex-husbands released an album called Annette which was made up of her songs.

Ctrl+Alt+Del in Poughkeepsie (fionnland), Wednesday, 10 October 2018 22:22 (four months ago) Permalink

Assuming it was all very evolved and sophisticated

Carla Bley has some shit to say about Paul in this interview. (The way she always says his full name - "Paul Bley" - makes me wish I could hear the audio of this conversation.)

grawlix (unperson), Wednesday, 10 October 2018 23:12 (four months ago) Permalink

That Carla Bley interview is fantastic, thanks for that. What a cool person. I disagree with her on many points, but her authority and candor (and irreverence!) has me reevaluating a few of my long-held assumptions. Her takes on Powell and Ellington are outrageous, though.

Paul Ponzi, Thursday, 11 October 2018 10:51 (four months ago) Permalink

even though she's dumping on two of my biggest heroes there, I absolutely love her style!

calzino, Thursday, 11 October 2018 13:49 (four months ago) Permalink

would fp anyone on here saying Bud Powell plays too many notes tho!

calzino, Thursday, 11 October 2018 14:05 (four months ago) Permalink

Right? That interview was a treasure. I love her perspective and glad she was so candid.

Paul Ponzi, Thursday, 11 October 2018 14:31 (four months ago) Permalink

I always felt Sonny Rollins could be an exemplar of "never meet your musical heroes, cos they are all complete arrogant dicks" - especially in his younger days.

calzino, Thursday, 11 October 2018 14:58 (four months ago) Permalink

Really? See, I always figured Sonny would be cool.

I was also surprised / disappointed to read about how Cherry treated Carla.

Surely we can all agree that Ornette was probably the best hang of all: no fear of him nodding out, seemingly unflappable, total PMA vibes...

Paul Ponzi, Thursday, 11 October 2018 15:10 (four months ago) Permalink

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