P A U L   B L E Y

San Francisco Jazz Festival
program notes
Solo Piano, Herbst Theatre, Saturday April 10, 2004  8:00pm

"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," hailed Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice.

A pivotal figure in the modern jazz lineage, pianist Paul Bley went from early work with famed mentors like Charlie Parker and Chet Baker to become "the man who headed the palace coup that overthrew bebop" (Penguin Guide to Jazz) in the late 1950s and early '60s.  In contrast with the firebreathing work of fellow avant-gardists Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, Bley's was a quieter, moodier revolution.  Building on the sound of the piano master Bill Evans, Bley's dark lyricism "paved the way for players as stylistically diverse as Keith Jarrett and Bill Frisell (Down Beat).

As critic Francis Davis described the quintessential Paul Bley sound in The New York Times: "At the piano, Mr. Bley seems to weigh each note before delivering it, even when phrasing at a rapid clip; he will often repeat a phrase, giving it greater emphasis the second time, like someone mulling over what he has just said and deciding it bears immediate repeating, with verbal italics to underscore its importance."

Solo improvisation, as in tonight's concert, has long been one of Bley's favorite musical contexts - and one for which he has reaped considerable well-earned praise, dating back to 1973's masterful album Open, to Love.  On the pleasures of live solo sets, Bley told The New York Times: "You think of something in your hotel room in the afternoon and you get a chance to try it out that night," adding, "The purpose of playing a concert should be to know something at the end of it that you didn't know at the beginning."

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