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Paul Bley


Soul Note BXS 1027


Artists :
Paul Bley ( Piano )
Release date
Oct 8, 2013


9 CD box-set + bonus CD


THE COMPLETE REMASTERED RECORDINGS ON BLACK SAINT & SOUL NOTE is a monographic box-set collection aimed at recounting the most beautiful chapters that revolutionised the history of jazz. A deep philological work, beginning with the original recordings on original master tapes, patiently integrally remastered paying strict attention to sound quality.

Stay closely tuned for more exciting upcoming box-set releases.


Paul Bley The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note

Part of a remastered reissue series begun in 2010 issued simply, and with the minimum of fuss, in a white box. There are no sleeve notes or a booklet in this instance and the facsimile cardboard sleeves make the credits difficult to read so that’s a drag in an otherwise notable and good value-for-money reissue. Bley after all is one of the father figures of free jazz, there at the birth, going back to Ornette’s Hillcrest days and while he has a big discography even during this 11 year period from 1983-1994 (he also recorded for Owl, Steeplechase, ECM, Justin Time, Sonet, hat Art, Red, Splasch (h), and Transheart) Soul Note is at the heart of a decade’s work in terms of quantity. It’s a varied offering both in terms of style and quality from Bley who remains nearly 20 years on hugely influential on a range of much younger pianists such as Ethan Iverson, Aaron Parks, and Kit Downes (listen, for instance, to 'Bley Days' on Downes' Light From Old Stars). In the box you’ll find the little known piano/percussion album Sonor, where Bley is joined by George Cross McDonald, and illuminating solo album Tango Palace both recorded in May 1983, Bley vocalising along on the title track of the latter. Then there is Hot (1985), a deceptive album title at least and an album that's the work of the Paul Bley Group, with Bley joined by guitarist John Scofield, bass guitarist Steve Swallow and drummer Barry Altschul. It’s certainly indicative of the more carefree side of Bley, blessed with a few surprises: the intimations of honky tonk fooled me, even if the avant tartnesses could not, but the cryptic accompaniment often steals the show even with some characterful soloing from Sco and joyous tip-tip-tipping from avant gardist Altschul. The piano/drums duo album Notes (1987) with Bley joined by Paul Motian, is next chronologically and where these Soul Notes all produced by Giovanni Bonandrini get really interesting. The sound quality is noticeably better for one thing and Bley sounds at his most rhapsodic on the title track. The interplay with Motian the most empathetic and rewarding of the box set by this point. Then it’s Bley with John Abercrombie, Red Mitchell, and Altschul again, recorded not in Milan but in New York in a Manhattan jazz club, and called Live at Sweet Basil (1988) playing Bley’s own tune ‘Blues Waltz’, standards ‘Lover Man’, ‘My Old Flame’, and ‘My Foolish Heart’, and Ornette’s ‘When Will The Blues Leave’, going back to Hillcrest days, also heard on Hot. It’s probably a question of taste but somehow John Abercrombie seems a more suitable if less obvious guitar-playing partner than Scofield if this Sweet Basil set is to be believed. A duo album with Gary Peacock called Mindset (1992) follows and the duo setting again serves well to illuminate Bley’s intimate approach. This is really lovely, with some of Bley’s most beautifully shaped melodies (‘Meltdown’ in particular) of the box set. Peacock is as animated as Bley is reserved and this contrast creates a compelling atmosphere that reaches a bluesy unfettered peak on ‘Where Can UB’. Trio album Memoirs (1990) with Bley joined by Charlie Haden and Paul Motian is probably the best of all these albums as an overall artefact right from the very first notes of title track ‘Memoirs’. Motian sounds reborn and again the sound quality is stronger and there’s a feeling of excitement in the air and a strong Ornettian dimension especially with Haden on board and Ornette’s ‘Latin Genetics’ is also one of the well chosen 10 tracks. The bonus CD is a very fragmentary improv album with reeds player Keshavan Maslak (aka Kenny Millions) called Not To Be a Star, Bley recorded back in Milan over three early-October days in 1992 and comes next in the sequence. It’s quite a baffling experimental album, mostly quite eccentric and not particularly rewarding but then more convincingly it’s Conversations with a Goose (1993), Bley reuniting with Jimmy Giuffre and Steve Swallow more than 30 years on from their influential drummer-less Fusion and Thesis albums with the difference that Swallow plays electric bass here. Chaos (1994), the pianist with bassist Furio Di Castri and influential English free improvising drummer Tony Oxley completes the set, Bley’s solo on ‘Turnham Bay’ mirage-like in its shimmering appeal. Notes, Mindset, Memoirs, and Chaos are the albums to best gravitate towards for the reasons explained but the variety of approach and Bley’s sheer artistry as a daring improviser is simply staggering.

4/6/2019 Stephen Graham
Paul Bley

Il box riporta in copertina nove immagini di LP del periodo Soul Note e la dicitura “9 CD SET”. C’è però la sorpresa, veicolata da un adesivo, che annuncia un bonus CD. Si intitola “Not To Be A Star” (1992) e in compagnia del pianista troviamo Keshavan Maslak (sax alto e clarinetto), dimenticata figura di guastatore dalle variate frequentazioni. Nella foresta di incisioni del Canadese è un LP che tende a perdersi nel folto, ma è un recupero quanto mai azzeccato. Il duetto si configura condito da scarse asperità e nondimeno evidenzia un processo creativo forte, generato da sottili rispondenze e intrecci equilibrati. Una concezione per molti versi simile la troviamo nelle altre accoppiate qui incluse: “Sonor” (1983), improvvisazioni totali condotte con il misconosciuto percussionista George Cross McDonald; “Notes” (1987), intarsiato insieme a Paul Motian, “Mindset” (1992), prova di bravura con Gary Peacock, il meglio riuscito del lotto.
”Memoirs” (1990), potente, energico e vitale, apre la sequenza dei dischi in trio (vi appaiono Haden e Motian). Un poco frammentario per via di qualche a solo di troppo è “Chaos” (1994) svolto in compagnia di Furio Di Castri e Tony Oxley. Compiuto è invece “Conversations With A Goose” (1993), attribuito in genere a Jimmy Giuffre (occhio, è presente già nel box CAM JAZZ del clarinettista), con Steve Swallow. The Paul Bley Group è la dicitura apposta a “Hot” (1985) e “Live At Sweet Basil” (1998): sono quartetti con tanto di chitarristi elettrici (rispettivamente Scofield e Abercrombie) e a dirla tutta non si va oltre il mestiere che indubitabilmente gli artisti coinvolti possiedono. Se li confrontiamo con “Tango Palace”, prova in solitaria del 1985, la differenza di valore è scoperta. Bley vi appare in ottima forma, dinamico oltre il consueto, poco incline ad autorappresentarsi, superlativo in molti passaggi.

27/5/2014AudioreviewPiercarlo Poggio
Paul Bley - Les moissons de Bley

Comment choisir dans la discographie de Paul Bley? Ne serait-ce que sur la période représentée par le présent coffret de neuf CD, de 1983 à 1982, le pianiste a aussi enregistré pour SteepleChase, OWL, ECM ou encore HatArt des albums pour certains essentiels. Face à cette profusion, son parcours reste d’une rare cohérence, privilégiant les affinités électives mais affirmant un souci constant de l’expérimentation, conjuguant fidélité et liberté. Si, au cœur des années 1960, il révolutionna le trio piano-contrebasse-batterie, Paul Bley n’a cessé de remettre l’ouvrage sur le métier. En témoignent Memoirs, unique session avec Charlie Haden et Paul Bley et, surtout, ses duos avec Gary Peacock (Mindset) ou Paul Motian (Notes): comment réinventer une forme de dialogue a priori attendue, se déjouer des acquis. Certes, c’est une mise en espace tout en retenue, une transgression lyrique des thèmes. Classique à sa façon lorsqu’il choisit le solo (Tango Palace), vers de quêtes collectives moins abouties lorsqu’il s’adjoint un guitariste en quartet (John Scofield ou John Abercrombie, Hot et Live at Sweet Basil). Un dixième CD, inédit, complète l’ensemble: Not to Be a Star, duo du pianiste avec le saxophoniste Keshavan Maslak.

10/2/2014Jazz NewsThierry Lepin
Paul Bley ‘Complete Black Saint And Soul Note Recordings’

Cet élégant et peu encombrant coffret verni blanc de dix CD remastérisés comprend les disques gravés par le pianiste Paul Bley pour les labels italiens Black Saint et Soul Note : Sonor, Tango Palace, Hot, Notes, Mindset, Live At Sweet Basil, Memoirs, Conversations With A Goose, Chaos et, non mentionné, Not To Be A Star. Ces albums devenus séparément rares couvrent une bonne partie de son activité musicale entre 1983 et 1994. Ils confirment à quel point Paul Bley possède un style original, fait d’une solide linéarité, d’une pulsation souvent sous-entendue, imprévisible, et de progressions harmoniques d’une grande subtilité. Mais il fait surtout preuve d’un sens tout à fait personnel de l’espace sonore, de la respiration musicale, empreint d’une poésie parfois glaciale mais sous laquelle rougeoie une incandescence parfaitement maîtrisée. Il est l’un de ceux qui ont installé une grande liberté dans l’improvisation en solo, se révélant poète imprévisible du clavier.

21/1/2014PianisteJean-Pierre Jackson
Paul Bley

1983 et 1994: une période faste pour Bley qui enregistre non seulement pour Soul Note, mais aussi chez Owl, StepleChase, ECM… Adepte de l’improvisation libre autant que de l’interprétation ouverte des standards, Bley est prêt pour toutes les aventures, ici du solo (captivant “Tango Palace” de 1984) jusqu’au quartette, la version live avec Abrecrombie (“Live At Sweet Basil”, 1988) étant plus engagée que celle auprès de Scofield (“The Paul Bley Group”, 1985). Ses échanges plein d’aplomb en duo avec des batteurs constituent de véritables modèles: “Sonor” (1983), avec George Cross McDonald, donne à entendre un Bley en plus grande forme encore qu’au côté de Motian (“Note” de 1987 déjà réédité dans le coffret que Cam Jazz avait consacré au batteur en 2010). “Conversations with a Goose” (1993), l’ultime gravure du trio historique Giuffre-Bley-Smallow reformé depuis 1989, contient des plages bien plus remarquables () que sur le moins substantiel “Chaos” (1994) avec Furio Di Castri et Tony Oxley valant tout de même la peine). Autres valeurs historiques, ce coffret contient l’unique album du trio Haden-Motian-Bley capté en studio. Les trois étant très inspirés, “Memoirs” (1990) constitue sans doute le sommet de coffret, talonné de près par le premier disque en duo du pianiste avec son vieux complice Gary Peacock (“Mindset”, 1992). Bien que “Not to Be a Star” (1992) en duo avec le saxophoniste Keshavan Maslak ne soit pas inoubliable, ce titre résume la vie musicale de Bley, surlignant dans cet ensemble discographique, l’œuvre d’un artiste intègre en quête d’une expression vraie et spontanée, loin de toutes considérations du qu’en-dira-t-on. Avec un travail de réédition approfondi, à la mesure de la musique produite, cela aurait valu un Choc ayant du coffre.

6/12/2013Jazz MagazineLudovic Florin

Nouvel arrivage de coffrets-rééditions chez CamJazz ! 9 disques du pianiste Paul Bley dans celui-ci qui contient (en bonus) un inédit en duo avec le saxophoniste-poète Keshavan Maslak. On goûtera, au fil de toutes ces plages, l’art d’un pianiste qui peut coller à la mélodie ou s’envoler dans l’improvisation en n’oubliant jamais de convier le silence à ses escapades. Il est entouré de complices hors-pair mais on soulignera l’importance des bassistes dans la carrière de Paul Bley. Steve Swallow, Gary Peacock, Red Mitchell, Charlie Haden, Furio Di Castri sont ici présents. Beau cadeau pour un prix raisonnable!

1/11/2013culturejazz.frThierry Giard
Paul Bley

This nine-disc box featuring piano star Paul Bley's work for Italy's Black Saint and Soul Note labels between 1983 and 1992 is part of a wider collection of CamJazz compilations led by Europhile Americans including David Murray, Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake and Art Farmer. The unaccompanied 1985 piece Tango Palace is a testament to what a majestically self-sufficient pianist Bley can be (in straightish song-interpreting mode, and in the process turning But Beautiful into completely new music), and the same year's quartet set with John Scofield, Steve Swallow and Barry Altschul has a joyous long account of Ornette Coleman's When Will The Blues Leave? with Swallow's springy bass guitar walk and Scofield's bebop articulacy matching the pianist's drive. The Notes duo with drums genius Paul Motian and 1992's Mindset with bassist Gary Peacock are both fascinatingly fine-detailed conversations, and Live at Sweet Basil finds guitarist John Abercrombie in coolly soulful form on the swinging Blues Waltz, with Bley in that idiosyncratic free fall in which he trusts his remarkable powers of harmonic navigation on My Old Flame and My Foolish Heart. Bley's name might not be as big as Jarrett's, Hancock's, Tyner's or Mehldau's, but he's a uniquely powerful force in jazz piano, and this box (short only in background information) contains plenty of proof of that.

31/10/2013theguardian.comJohn Fordham