Pete Recommends…Paul Bley – Basics

Paul Bley

Basics

[Justin Time CD Just 1542]

 

When I visited Peter Ind’s exhibition in March, I discovered that Just Gone Jazz had issued a box set of recordings made by Peter in New York. They include some of the best sessions ever recorded by Lee Konitz. An extra surprise was the inclusion in the set of a trio recording by Paul Bley with Peter on bass and Al Levitt on drums made in New York in 1952. The young Canadian pianist from Montreal was about to begin a wonderful career which would see him work with such great jazzmen as Lester Young, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, Chet Baker, Jackie McLean and a host of others. In the 1960s and 70s he would be a leading figure in the avant-garde. He was 22 years old.

This early recording is excellent. It captures Paul at a stage in his career when he had mastered the bebop style of Bud Powell, Al Haig and others. He was ready to move on to develop his individual contribution to the jazz story. The trio with Peter and Al Levitt offers some music of real class.

Almost 20 years ago, when I had just moved to Brighton, I was lucky enough to hear Paul in concert at the Sallis Benney Theatre. He played solo and non-stop for almost an hour. His imagination held my attention for the whole time.

The music flowed, themes came and went, momentum was maintained and he built to a very strong climax. It was a thrilling example of his personal development of solo jazz piano.

So Peter’s box set and my awakened memory of Paul in Brighton have led me to a special item from my collection. It certainly reminds me of all the qualities I heard on that evening. A special treat is his reworking of Monk’s Dream [wrongly titled ‘Monk’s Mood’] – how to play Monk’s wonderful music and make it your own. Paul Died in 2016.

Peter Batten