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Paul Bley: Basics

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Seasoned solo pianist Paul Bley presents a program of 10 original compositions and one standard, Thelonious’ “Monk’s Mood.” Each note rings with calm authority, the by-product of years in the bop and postbop trenches. His two hands, at times, sound as if they are holding a fascinating conversation with each other; on the tune “Lucky,” Bley’s intermanual rapport leads to a startling display of independent motion, the right hand charging fearlessly into the next harmonic domain, while the left lags behind, as if tying up loose ends. Transitions within the pieces are almost like cinematic cuts, sometimes smooth, at other times abrupt, depending on the effect desired.

Although subtly shaded dynamics are a key feature of this disc, there’s no denying Bley’s percussive attack and firm tone, perhaps originally conceived to cut through the chatter in a noisy club. The onetime child prodigy and disciple of fellow Montreal native Oscar Peterson long ago made his mark on jazz through his work with, among others, bassists Steve Swallow, Charles Mingus, Gary Peacock and Charlie Haden. Basics evidences a postmodern keyboard master in his prime.