Paul Bley

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Paul Bley (born November 10, 1932 in Montreal , † January 3, 2016 in Stuart (Florida) ) was a Canadian jazz pianist of free jazz and modern creative style, who is considered the "quiet genius of free jazz" ( Melody Maker ). According to Martin Kunzler , Bley's playing and his compositions radiate “calm and impress with their clarity.” His improvisations “have found a sovereignty that lets you forget the old separation between traditional jazz - be it tonal or modal - and free play.” He lived and worked in the United States for a long time .


As a child, Bley learned the violin from 1938 and the piano from 1940. At the age of eleven, his musical training at the McGill Conservatory was completed in 1944 . In 1946 he founded his first band. In 1948, in his native Montreal, he met Oscar Peterson , who introduced him to the jazz scene and from whom he took over the rhythm section in 1949 . Bley led the Montreal Jazz Workshop, to which he brought musicians like Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins to Montreal.

In 1950 Bley moved to New York , where he studied at the Juilliard School of Music until 1954 . During his studies, Bley continued to perform , toured with Art Blakey , Louis Armstrong and others. He dealt with the concept of Lennie Tristano and was given the opportunity to make his debut album in 1953 through Charles Mingus .

In 1957, Bley married Carla Borg, who made a name for herself in the jazz world as Carla Bley and initially composed for him. The collaboration should last for almost ten years. From 1957 to 1959 Bley lived in Los Angeles, where he not only played with Chet Baker , but also founded his own trio, often with Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden and Scott LaFaro , which in 1958 was led by the still unknown Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry and Bobby Hutcherson was expanded. In 1959 he returned to New York, where the "Jimmy Giuffre Trio" was formed around clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre with Steve Swallow and Bley. This formation appeared for the first time in Europe and played three albums, including Free Fall at Columbia . At that time, Bley had experimented with stylistic devices from New Music and combined different approaches into "an aesthetically ambitious overall concept".

In addition to his engagements with other jazz greats, Bley had his own trio with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian in the 1960s . In the first half of the 1960s Paul Bley tried to find freer musical expressions with the double bass player in the jazz scene that was then in upheaval and very experimental. In 1964, Bley was one of the key figures in the so-called "October Revolution" in the Cellar Café New York, where the musicians of American free jazz formed a platform. Bley became an important pianist in the genre. As co-founder of the Jazz Composers Guild (1964) he also worked in a duo with David Izenzon as well as with Giuseppi Logan , Archie Shepp and John Tchicai . He visited Japan as a pianist in Sonny Rollins ' group (1963). In 1965 and 1966 he stayed in Europe for a long time after a highly acclaimed appearance with Mingus in New York's Five Spot.

At the end of the 1960s, Bly's new partner Annette Peacock came on the scene, who also worked for him as a composer and performed with him. Bley first used synthesizers in 1968, and in 1969 his trio became the first jazz group to use a large electronic set live (at the Philharmonic Hall in New York City). This resulted in the Bley-Peacock Synthesizer Show .

From 1971 Paul Bley increasingly turned to solo performances, concerts again led to Europe. In 1972 his first solo album was recorded. In 1974, Bley founded the record label Improvising Artists Inc. (IAI) together with the video artist Carol Goss , who illustrated Bley's appearances with specially designed film sequences. In addition to the recording of a few synthesizer solo albums, IAI also documented sessions with numerous other musicians ( Pat Metheny had his record debut at IAI ). Bley has released more than 100 albums, often with his companions since the 1960s: Giuffre, Swallow, Peacock and Motian.

Numerous tours have taken Paul Bley to Europe again and again, including with Evan Parker and Barre Phillips .

In 1999 Paul Bley presented his autobiography "Stopping Time" and in 2003 an interview book was published under the title "Time Will Tell".

Discography (selection)


Web links

Individual notes

  1. ^ Obituary in Ottawa Citizen
  2. cit. n. M. Kunzler Jazzlexikon vol. 1 Reinbek 2002, p. 116
  3. a b M. Kunzler Jazzlexikon , p. 116
  4. Konrad Heidkamp Solo for Two Die Zeit April 17, 1992
  5. The American Physical Society honored 1999 for his efforts on the synthesizer.