"In the final reckoning..."

New York Times

Sunday May 21, 2006
by Ben Ratliff

"In the final reckoning, the pianist PAUL BLEY's influence over the last 50 years of jazz - and it continues - will be enormous.  It includes figures as major as Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny, and endless numbers of musicians who are still learning.  Deeply original and aesthetically aggressive, Mr. Bley long ago found a way  to express his long, elegant, voluminous thoughts in a manner that implies complete autonomy from its given setting but isn't quite free jazz.  The music runs on a mixture of deep historical knowledge and its own inviolable principles."

"In the pantheon of jazz..."

All About Jazz:  Paul Bley: Turning Points  
May 6, 2006
by Andrey Henkin

In the pantheon of jazz, certain players are spoken of as upholding or continuing a particular lineage while others are given their own chapter in the book - their body of work something for others to uphold and continue. Paul Bley is one of the latter, a pianist who for over 50 years has participated in every stylistic shift present in jazz.
(read the entire article:

"One of the greatest pianists in the history of  jazz"

Jazzman Magazine, France
May 2014

read review in French

"From the beginning..."

"From the beginning, Bley gravitated toward the deepest players, and they to him."
Steve Lake, Fragments (ECM) liner notes  1986

"Paul Bley, a master of modernist purposes... has worked with more first-rate, wide-ranging original musical minds than anyone, except Miles..."
Howard Mandel, Down Beat April 1995

At age 21 Bley brought Charlie Parker to Montreal and recorded with him... "the tapes took 25 years to be released (Bird on the Road) but represent the pianist's earliest work on record, predating by eight months his first date under his own name, (Introducing Paul Bley)... with Charles Mingus and Art Blakey."
Mark Miller, Pete, Boogie and the Senator: Canadian Musicians in Jazz: The Eighties   Nightwood Editions, Canada 1987, pp. 56-67

Before 1958 Bley played with such formidable musicians as: Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Oscar Pettiford, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey,  Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Jackie McLean, Chet Baker, Harry Edison, and Elvin Jones.

"the beginning of avant-garde jazz in America"

"the man who headed the palace coup that overthrew bebop"
The Penguin Guide to Jazz  Penguin Books 1992  p. 121

In this 1955 Down Beat interview, the 23 year old Bley anticipated the direction in which jazz was headed:
"Paul Bley - Jazz Is Just About Ready For Another Revolution, Says Canada's Young Pianist."
(Reprinted in Down Beat's 60th. Anniversary Issue, July 1994)

Three years later he gave Ornette Coleman "one of the few paying jazz gigs from his (Coleman's) Los Angeles years. The quintet, featured for a brief period at the Hillcrest Club in 1958, brought together a line-up that, only a few years later, would be heralded as an all-star collection of some of the most innovative musicians in jazz."
Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz, Oxford University Press 1992  p. 356

"...this early collaboration was to free jazz what the Minton's and Monroe's jam sessions of the early 1940s were to the formation of bebop.  The Hillcrest gig represented... 'the beginning of avant-garde jazz in America'."
"Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Paul Bley, Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell, Scott LaFaro, Gary Peacock.  This roster  of names conjures up, in the minds of knowledgeable jazz fans, memories of the best experimental jazz of the 1950s and 1960s, of daring attempts to push the music into uncharted waters, to develop nothing short of a new musicial vocabulary for jazz."
Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz, Oxford University Press 1992   p. 331

In 1964 Bley became  a founding member in the Jazz Composer's Guild, organizing the October Revolution which was documented in the film Imagine the Sound, by Ron Mann in 1989.

"A charter member of the jazz avant garde, pianist Paul Bley has stood steadfast, even during his experiments with electronic keyboards, in the service of his own demanding music.  'I am my own influence," he once said. Like Keith Jarrett, Theolonius Monk, Bill Evans, and Cecil Taylor, Bley is a unique musician, and like these pianists he has discovered and energetically cultivated his own musical vision, informed by an exacting sense of inner logic.  It's this internal  rightness of conviction that marks Bley as a major artist."
Jon Balleras, Down Beat November 1985

"changed jazz history"

In the 1960s Bley was given the choice between touring with "Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis... a choice which may have indirectly changed jazz history."
Art Lange, Down Beat  August 1992

"Paul Bley's particular artistic sensibility was an important blueprint for an aesthetic viewpoint now so widespread as to be an would be nice to think that more of today's instrumentalists (and not just pianists) at least knew to whom they owe a debt."
Steve Lake, Fragments (ECM) liner notes  1986

"It would be difficult to overemphasize the influence of Paul Bley's music from this period.
[trio records  from 1963-1967: Footloose, Ramblin', Blood, Fusion, Thesis, Free Fall]
Such records helped bring a new intellectuality into contemporary jazz. Bley made sense of the notion of improvisation as spontaneous combustion, that often-talked-about-hardly-ever-achieved goal.  In his world, half the beauty has been in the not-played.  Clarity is the quality I associate most with Paul Bley's playing."  Steve Lake, Fragments (ECM) liner notes  1986

"Bley's role-redefining with Coleman and Giuffre set him up for his own subsequent pathbreaking trio dates for Savoy and ECM.  These sessions... proved a major advance on post-Bill Evans piano trio interaction."
"Bley's reconsideration of rhythm and harmony, form and tempo, paved the way for players as stylistcially diverse as Keith Jarrett and Bill Frisell."
Art Lange, Down Beat August 1992

"It's hard, listening to Footloose (Bley, Swallow, LaRoca) after nearly twenty years, to understand why there was so very much excitement about Bill Evans when Bley was producing far more interesting and challenging piano trio music, sometimes only a couple of blocks away."
The Penguin Guide to Jazz  Penguin Books 1992  p. 120

With Bley,  multi-reedman and composer Jimmy Giuffre and bassist Steve Swallow, "their three part melodic invention and rhythmic counterpoint was the freshest, the freeist, the most sublime."
" epitomizes 'chamber jazz' at its most lucid and luminous and has proven to be a still-fertile area for improvisers today."
Art Lange, Down Beat August 1992

"one of the most prolific pianists before the public"

"Bley is one of the most prolific pianists before the public.  His available CDs overflow the bins at your local store --- and yet each one is different, distinctive."
"He recorded with Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius well in advance of their days of fame... and even adapted his approach to Schoenberg and Webern's theories on a remarkable, spontaneously improvised trio CD ( 12 (+6) On A Row, hat ART)."
Art Lange, Down Beat August 1992

"Bley is the only pianist to have played with both Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman.  Bley has always been an innovative musician, collaborating with Coleman and the 'outside' Sonny Rollins of the early Sixties (Bley is the pianist on one of the strangest, and most oddly beautiful of all jazz records, Sonny Meets Hawk [Coleman Hawkins]."
Eric Nisenson, Music, Computers, and Software August 1997

"the music"

"He is a genius, oh yes..."
"...there are few pianists in any form of music who so intriguingly interweave the surprises of both beauty and the intellect."
Nat Hentoff, Village Voice

"There's a certain irony in the fact that the man who headed the palace coup that overthrew bebop at the Hillcrest Club in 1958 should be the one to produce the most exacting and forward-looking variations on bop language in the last decade.... This is one of the finest piano trio records of the last ten years (Bebop) - or the next, depending on how you view its revisionism." p. 121
Bley's "quest, fueled by inner resources and personal challenges, identifies him as an individual in a world of increasing soundalikes."
The Penguin Guide to Jazz  Penguin Books 1992  p. 120

"Bley has the wonderful ability to allow his music to move where it will.  The effect is one of total freshness, of music that has never been heard before and never will be heard again."
Jon Balleras, Down Beat November 1985
 Selected Awards & Honors:

Autobiography, Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz, Vehicule Press, Montreal, Canada 1999,  ISBN 1-55065-111-0
Time Will Tell: Conversations with Paul Bley , by Norman Meehan, Berkeley Hills Press  Berkeley, California  2003, ISBN 1-893163-54-7
Paul Bley: la logica del caso (Paul Bley: the logic of chance) in Italian, by Arrigo Cappelletti   ISBN 88-8302-236-x

Television Biography for BRAVO! and ARTE-TV, Jazz Collection: Paul Bley,  producer Amerimage-Spectra, Montreal  1999

"A Century of Physics" Time Line Wall and Web Chart  (1899-1999):    "The first performance of a music synthesizer was made by pianist Paul Bley at Philarmonic Hall, Lincoln Center in New York City on December 26, 1969.  Bley  developed a proprietary interface that allowed real time performance on the music synthesizer."  The American Physical Society 1999

New York Foundation  for the ArtsFellowship, 1998
Broadcast Music Inc.,  Jazz All Stars, June 25, 1990
Smithsonian Institution, Recognition of Contribution, April 27, 1980
National Endowment for the ArtsFellowship, 1976
Academie of Jazz, Prix de Jazz, Paris 1976
Gold Disk Award, Tokyo 1976

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