Paul Bley has long offered avant-garde pianists an alternative approach to improvising than that of Cecil Taylor. Bley has been able to use melody and space in inventive ways while performing fairly free improvisations. He started on piano at age eight, studied at Juilliard during 1950-1952, and in 1953 played with Charlie Parker on a Canadian television show; the soundtrack serves as his recording debut. After recording for Charles Mingus' Debut label in 1953, he moved to New York. Following a stint with Jackie McLean's quintet, he relocated to Los Angeles. Bley played with Chet Baker and then in 1958 played at the Hillcrest with musicians who would soon form the Ornette Coleman Quartet: Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins. He soon returned to New York, played and recorded with Charles Mingus and Don Ellis, was part of the Jimmy Giuffre Three (which also included Steve Swallow), and was married to the talented up-and-coming pianist/composer Carla Bley. After leading his own trio, Paul Bley spent much of 1963 with Sonny Rollins' group. He participated in the famous October Revolution in Jazz in 1964 and was a founding member of the Jazz Composers Guild. He recorded frequently with his trios, for a few years experimented with electronics with his second wife Annette Peacock, and then in 1974 founded his Improvising Artists label. Virtually all of that short-lived label's output has been reissued on CD by Black Saint/Soul Note. Since the mid-'70s, Paul Bley has recorded a countless number of albums for literally dozens of labels (once cutting two albums in the same day, in two different countries). A key link between Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, Bley's adventurous yet thoughtful playing sounds like no one else.
- by Scott Yanow
All Music Group