Paul Bley

Tango Palace

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AllMusic Review by

An alarm mechanism goes off at the sight of another solo album by this artist; the acquisition of a complete collection would surely cause floors to sag. Still, the dapper Paul Bley, pipe alit, will arrive at the studio, and by the end of the day a project is completed, with attention paid to all the details that will make such an album an enjoyable, varied listening experience. "C.G" appears to have him musically gazing out the window, perhaps a needed respite after the peppy opening title tune. Fans of tango should savor that moment; it is the only example of that style on the entire album. "Woogie" literally invites the listener to a wedding, notes tossed out like rice in the opening passages.

Bley digs deeper as the program progresses, with the gaze now out the window of a train, en route from gig to gig, a life of music passing by in a pattern of reminiscing. This can be heard in the references to melodies and styles, the little nuances that can peel 40 years off the music right before your ears. "But Beautiful" has just the right amount of build for a ballad, never upsetting the gentleness of its nature. The second side's opener, "Return to Love," has an amazing amount of detail and contrast; it is simply played beautifully, but appears to fade abruptly. "Bound" begins like a Thelonious Monk tune, then is abruptly abducted off to a land of more space than sound. As its two-and-a-half-minute length nervously unfolds, Bley alternates brief moments of emphasis with jewel-like chordal strokes that recall Satie. It is a wonderfully casual performance, and very deep.

Elsewhere, the pianist does some interesting swing, walking with an effective kind of halting motion before flitting off into the high register as if sewing a pocket shut. True, some mannerisms reappear as if a tired mind was trying to finish a job, including a kind of hackneyed use of the sustain pedal along with ringing high notes. "Please" is extremely pretty, a nice suggestion as a track to play to lure listeners into jazz piano piece, but it also fades out. "Explain" provides the final five minutes; one can almost hear the producer mouthing "What? Another slow one?" behind the glass.

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