The recorded history of jazz gives us glimpses into a process, snapshots of where individual and collective developments had reached at a certain moment in time. Even when we have extensive records of the shared history of great artists who worked together over a long period of time, it’s always fascinating to get further insights, more snapshots. The trio of Paul Bley, Gary Peacock and Paul Motian is one of the truly great groups, and this new release of a March 1999 concert in Lugano, Switzerland is wonderful.
The trio had first recorded on the groundbreaking Paul Bley with Gary Peacock in 1963, and gone to make an absolute classic quartet recording with John Gilmore the following year. Bley had an ongoing relationship with both of the others, recording duos with each as well as including them in other groups – a trio with Motian and Charlie Haden and a quartet with Peacock, Tony Oxley and John Surman among the highlights. This gig recording was made in Switzerland, whilst on tour in support of their 1998 trio album Not One, Not Two, also on ECM.
The title tune, When Will the Blues Leave, is, of course, an Ornette Coleman composition. Bley worked with Coleman for a few weeks at the Hillcrest Club in California in 1958, and their recording from that engagement includes this great tune. Bley described himself as an ‘Ornette disciple’ in Time Will Tell (a book of his conversations with Norman Meehan) and continued to record this tune throughout his career. A relaxed, deeply swinging version from 1989, trio with Haden and Motian recorded live in Montreal, gives beautiful insight into what a completely different band the trio is with a different bassist. On this recording, it’s one of the most extroverted pieces on the album, played with an aggressive and pushy excitement. The other pieces on the album include four Bley originals, Gary Peacock’s ‘Moor’, a freely improvised piano and bass duet and a solo excursion that at least starts out as Gershwin’s I loves you, Porgy. Like most Bley trio recordings, the record includes extensive solo and duo sections, with all three musicians given plenty of room to stretch out by themselves. Bley has said ‘if the music already sounds good, why spoil it? So don’t add your voice unless they need help’ (Meehan, 2003) and that philosophy stands them well here, with fantastic solos from all three.
This album is a beautiful record of one evening in the long musical relationship of three absolute grandmasters of the music. It doesn’t contain anything that will come as a huge surprise to anyone who knows their work, but any opportunity to hear three such wonderful improvisers at the top of their respective games is not to be missed.
Categories: CD reviews