Charles Andrew Whitehead | Fort Worth, Texas | 08/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bop is the syntax within blues and song-forms that is common to most jazzers and the tunes on this CD are standard blowing vehicles. Paul Bley- a pioneering inside/outside player- breathes fresh air into these old chestnuts and never fails to surprise with his inventiveness and humour. Bley knows the traditions- as a young entrepreneur in the 50s he organized Charlie Parker to play in Montreal and later led the famous group with Ornette Coleman in 1958 that was removed from the Hillcrest on account of its avante-garde leanings- but he is never bound by convention. Even as a younger player, Bley's lines had an intensity and purposefulness that avoided arbitrary use of stock formulas (witness the "Solemn Meditation" recording with Dave Pike) though they appeared smoother from a rhythmic standpoint because of his technical fluency. Working within original compositions and with like-minded partners who embraced free-form improvisation, his depth as a musician expanded and his influence through albums like "Footloose" on the likes of Keith Jarrett was extremely powerful. His freedoms are as natural as breathing yet ideas flow from one another in ways that always make perfect sense. There is no affect in his music yet his ballade playing sings as soulfully as a piano is capable of.
Bley's bop retains its characteristic physical and virtuosic energy but the blues are never far away. Sample "A Night In Tunisia" or "52nd Street Theme" (blues) on itunes for a good example of what this album is about. It is revealing just how much this musician has evolved when you compare the same song from the 50s Paul Bley Topsy CD.
In essence then, "post-bop" never sounded so good and Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Keith Copeland (drums) are illuminating in their interactive roles and solos. In a decade (the 80s) that some view as a low point for jazz, the music on this CD is like a breath of fresh air. And it all swings hard too...