The second ESP issue from the Paul Bley Trio is a contrast as dramatic as rain against sunshine. The earlier album, Barrage, recorded in October of 1964, was full of harsh, diffident extrapolations of sound and fury, perhaps because of its sidemen; Marshall Allen and Dewey Johnson on saxophone and trumpet, respectively, were on loan from Sun Ra and joined Eddie Gomez and Milford Graves. Indeed, the music there felt like one long struggle to survive. On this date, recorded over a year later and released in 1966, Bley's sidemen are two more like-minded experimentalists, drummer Barry Altschul and bassist Steve Swallow. The program of tunes here is also more even-handed and characteristically lush: the entire first side and two on the second were written by Carla Bley (including the gorgeous "Ida Lupino") for a total of seven, and there is one each by pianists Annette Peacock and Ornette Coleman. Bley and his trio understand that with compositions of this nature, full of space and an inherent, interior-pointing lyricism, that pace is everything. And while this set clocks in at just over 29 minutes in length, the playing is so genuine and moving that it doesn't need to be any longer. The interplay between these three (long before Swallow switched to electric bass exclusively) is startling in how tightly woven they are melodically and harmonically. There isn't a sense that one player -- other than the volume of Mr. Bley's piano in this crappy mix -- stands out from the other two; they are of a piece traveling down this opaque yet warm road together. Bley may never have been as flashy as Cecil Taylor, but he is every bit the innovator.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek