Paul Bley


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Recorded in 1991, this disc gorgeously assembles two of the most lyric "voices" on one CD, Canadian pianist Paul Bley and Italian chanteuse Tiziana Ghiglioni, performing solo and duet in a series of originals and standards. Of the 11 tunes, Bley composed six, all of which are piano solos, which serve as preludes or postludes --depending on your point of view -- to the duets on the standards by Kern, Gershwin, Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh, etc. Bley's compositions are all lyric songs, or songs without lyrics that follow a conventional form and are adorned by his usual lush pointillism. From "Beginning" to "Clime" to "Soulful," Bley digs very deep for the melodic invention only he can put across, stringing lines of arpeggios next to open mode chords and tying them together in a chromaticism of his own design. His triplets give way to staggered ninths and flatted fifths before working themselves out in a lyric line that is as complex as it is stunningly beautiful. As for the duets with Ghiglioni, she proves Bley's perfect foil -- especially on tunes like Gershwin and Kern's "Long Ago and Far Away." Ghiglioni allows the song to come through her voice; she has no need to "make it her own" by taming or twisting it to fit her oracular talent. She allows Bley to bring her the changes and she takes the melody elegantly, letting it come from her mouth as a song, not a vehicle for vocal stylishness. The same goes for "Lover Man," one of the finest versions ever recorded: As she allows the lyric to drip from her emotions and not vice versa, Bley picks it all up and polishes the tune, as the singing needs no assistance. The final duet, "The More I See You," is a revelation in symbiotic musicianship. Ghiglioni just barely anticipates Bley's line as he holds back a fraction of a second to change the shape of his chord voicing to highlight the depth and dimension in Ghiglioni's singing. The song becomes not a sentimental piece of jazz' nostalgic past, but a living, breathing hymn to longing. And you can't ask for more than that.

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