Published Nov 21, 2019Paul Bley was a Montreal-born jazz pianist who redefined piano jazz and who, someone pointed out, literally invented Keith Jarrett. While one can debate this witticism, Bley's highly original phrasing and unique approach to harmony, melody and rhythm redefined the form.
His trio with Gary Peacock (bass) and Barry Altschul or Paul Motian (drums) stands as one of the genre defining groups in jazz. However, the number of artists who take his direction seriously and expand it with their own take is very few. It is gratifying to hear how this UK trio of Pat Thomas (piano), Dominic Lash (bass) and Tony Orrell (drums) have so thoroughly worked Bley's classic trio's aesthetic, and imbued it with their own excitement and exploration.
But these are no slavish "classic jazz" interpretations dedicated to nostalgia. The release has two co-composed tracks that bracket three that present an opportunity to hear how this group manage the form. "Ida Lupino" — as much a "standard" in Bley's repertoire as anything else — transforms the original's formal minimalism with sidelong and prodding insistence on upending that minimalism.
"The Blessing" by Ornette Coleman (noteworthy, as the original comes from the only Coleman album featuring piano) is also accorded the same treatment, forgoing the original's Red Garland-like piano clusters with stabbing, cantilevered alternate chords.
Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" takes on Duke's spaciousness and again, asks nagging questions of what and where sentimentality is in 2019. Thomas, Orrell and Lash are a unit unto themselves, and the music cannot be dissected by definitions of accompaniment and solo as so many other jazz offerings can.
This trio speak music in one voice whose expression is as hermetic as a Bartok string quartet and as flowing, loose and original as Bley himself. (577 Records)