Paul Bley's storied career as a premier creative music improviser can only be enhanced as the years go by, and his countenance grows in depth, compassion, and great ability to play new music. This recording is a series of solo piano offerings, percussion excursions by Kresten Osgood, and a few duets. While Osgood is tasteful and to the point, Bley is the focus in the majority of the pieces he plays on. The solo compositions by Bley have range and depth, but are not a challenge for listening. "Darkness" has the prerequisite space and stealthiness the title suggests, parsing resonance with peaceful repast. "Fluid Head" is one of those alluring statements that emphasizes the pretty side of jazz, but also displays certain animated excitement. "Told You So" is not so much about nagging or tattling as it is as it is a modal, playful song that is ultimately tuneful, with Osgood in late. Then there's "Backlash," a probing piano statement on different levels of strata. The prime duet is "Arches," which echoes the old standard "In a Little Shanty Town" in traditional Old West ballad form, while the ultimately low-key "Meeting of the Minds" has Bley exploring the bass notes of his keyboard in muted, underground tones. A take on "All the Things You Are" spreads out the well-worn melody line in a diffuse technique via a slight tango or march rhythm. Osgood's best solo, on "True Blue and Gold," sounds influenced by gamelan music, with a glossy facade facilitated by shimmering vibes, bright drum inventions, and contrasting grungy gongs and cymbals. His tom-tom-infused "The Beaten Path" reflects its title, with further emphasis via his brush work and stroked rolls. Where many listeners might have preferred to hear a complete project of just duets, the variations with solo pieces does lend to the diverse content of the program -- plus, any Paul Bley recording offers its own set of surprises, in this case how brilliant he still is.
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