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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Monday, June 24, 2019

CD Review: Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian - When Will The Blues Leave


  Paul Bley (piano); Gary Peacock (double bass); Paul Motian (drums)    
(Review by Chris)

A gem from the ECM vaults, this time a live recording from 1999 in Switzerland of a trio of masters, led by the veteran Canadian poet of the piano, Paul Bley, who died in 2016.  It’s hard to imagine a more different approach to playing than the other Canadian maestro, Oscar Peterson: Bley eschews the obvious sentimental or romantic lines, famously stating “Anything you play twice is once too much”.    


I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this album, as I have been gradually taking on board Jarrett’s and Mehldau’s well-chronicled trio oeuvres, and Bley’s rigorous drive for innovative and free forms (after all, he set Ornette Coleman’s career in train) requires rather more resolve and attention from the listener. 

However, I was blown away by some of the sheer poetry and elegance of not only Bley’s piano (solo on I Told You So and the luxurious I Loves You Porgy) but the sublime contributions from the remarkable Peacock and Motian, who are given plenty of space of their own - notably Motian on the lively Ornette Coleman title track, and Peacock on his own 1970 number, Moor.   

Bley’s eclectic playing may be centred between bop and free, but is too quixotic and quicksilver to categorise, with extreme contrasts throughout in dynamic, mood and colour.  As a Jarrett fan, I found tantalising glimpses here of Jarrett at his finest and least bombastic (and not a single groan to be heard....).  Clearly, Bley made a major impression on Jarrett over the years. 

The remaining numbers are Bley originals, starting with Mazatlan from 1965. Altogether a remarkably varied collection of apparently relaxed conversations between all combinations of the three players:  virtuoso technique worn lightly in service of real artistry. Highly recommended - an object lesson in the power of the piano trio.    
Chris Kilsby 

Release date: 31.05.2019 ECM 2642 

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