N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 01/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Paul Bley is one of those musicians like Steve Lacy, Lee Konitz or Anthony Braxton who's thrived on the margins, releasing fistfuls of recordings on a variety of labels. & like those artists, he's so original, so singular in his vision of what he wants to do, & so thoughtful in his organization of his sessions, that they're virtually all worth acquiring. _Chaos_ is a superb disc that follows on from Bley's earlier encounter with the drummer Tony Oxley in a quartet session for ECM (which yielded two discs, John Surman's _Adventure Playground_ and Bley's _In the Evenings Out There_, of which the latter is probably the better of the two). On _Chaos_ we get a trio rounded out by the Italian bassist Furio di Castri. The music is fully democratic: there's an evenhanded mixture of solos, duos & trios, and on the latter one hears a music reminiscent of Bill Evans' classic discs with la Faro for its intensely independent group interplay. Bley's solos are characteristically orderly & impeccable; Oxley's demonstrate that he is one of the few percussionists actually worth listening to perform solo; di Castri is a fiery virtuoso. As always with Bley's music, lines shade from tonality into freedom & then into bluesiness almost imperceptibly. Most of the tracks seem freely improvised, though at least one tune has appeared on an earlier disc ("Poetic Justice", on _Time Will Tell_), and there is a fine themeless rendition of the changes of "I Can't Get Started" called "Starting Over".A lovely disc. It is of a piece with Bley's latterday discs, yet, because of Oxley's unfettered drumming, stands a bit apart. Those who enjoy it might investigate _Not Two, Not One_ (with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian), _Time Will Tell_ (with Evan Parker and Barre Phillips) and _Memoirs_ (with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian)."