This is a remarkable encounter between four top-notch musicians: Paul Bley on piano, Gary Peacock on bass, Tony Oxley on drums, and John Surman on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet. All four appear together only on "Interface" and "Article Four." Otherwise, they play solo and are paired off in twos or threes. Peacock's unaccompanied features, "Portrait of a Silence" and "Tomorrow Today," are technical marvels. Surman's baritone solo flight on "Alignment" is well-formed and unusual. Bley's solo pieces are varied: "Married Alive" and the ironically titled "Soft Touch" are busy and intense, while "Note Police" and "Afterthoughts" are more placid and lyrical. Oxley interacts brilliantly with Peacock on "Speak Easy," and with Bley on the very brief "Spe-cu-lay-ting." His percussive textures are unpredictable, enticing, and quite unlike those of any other drummer.
Most of the music is entirely improvised, although the Bley/Peacock duet "Fair Share" is in tempo and sounds more or less like a pre-written piece. Although the record falls solidly within the "free jazz" category, it has a mysteriously soothing, meditative quality. Fans of these four greats shouldn't miss it.