Paul Bley

Paul Bley [Emarcy]

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Some releases of this album present the material in a slightly different order. Juggle the tunes in any fashion, however, the message is the same: This is one of the earliest recordings by this great jazz pianist. While it is, in fact, difficult to avoid traces of the way he plays here in most of his later work, the reverse cannot be said. Pick a personality trait of the Paul Bley style and chances are it won't be found anywhere here, as lovely a piano trio jazz record as this is. His style here is straight bebop, with comparisons in order to players such as Wynton Kelly and Lennie Tristano. He is neither as romantic as the former nor as brilliant as the latter, and he also has many of the traits of a youthful player here, filling in too many of the spaces and hitting some of the written themes as if he's scared someone is going to slap him on the wrist if he makes a mistake. Even under these conditions, he is a really good pianist. His taste in tunes is great, and there is a superb rhythm section. Both the bassists, Percy Heath and Peter Ind, are masters. The latter name might suggest an ability to move more forward in the Tristano direction; that happens only slightly. Drummer Alan Levitt does a great job throughout and is the only player that makes much use of dynamics. For the most part the tone of the pianist remains almost frigid in its consistency; volume level rarely varies and the direction of the improvisations is solidly mainstream. This group could survive the scrutiny of any jazz coffeehouse owner known for firing bands for slight infractions of volume, playing a wrong-sounding note, or doing a tune written after 1962. Especially that last rule, since this material stems from three recording sessions in 1954. Yet it should be stressed, again, that this is quite a nice record of jazz piano trio music. The obvious problem with someone like Bley or Jimi Hendrix is that once they developed their totally unique musical personality, their earlier work starts to sound a little boring.

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