Monday, June 07, 2021

Paul Bley - Touching and Blood Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2021)

Pianist and composer Paul Bley was reaching an early peak in his career when the album Touching was made for Charles Mingus's artist run record label Debut in 1965. Recording in Copenhagen, he is playing with his regular trio featuring Kent Carter on bass and Barry Altschul on drums. The opener, "Cartoon," has a jaunty and fun feeling with witty trio interaction, keeping the music at a medium tempo but in constant motion especially from the drums. The trio develops a very progressive sound leading to a bass solo and feathering drum feature. Tumbling and cascading speed is the feature of "Start" with complex interaction between the instruments. There is brilliant drum work on this track and it is fascinating to hear their improvisation develop in a holistic way. "Mazatl├ín" has an impish sound, sporting a great melody leading Bley to play surprisingly bright piano amid a bed of alluring bass and drums. Bley's own "Closer" has a spacious and mysterious vibe with droplets of notes as the music floats through the air seemingly unmoored in space and time. "Both" is much faster with slashing cymbals, frantic but never out of control. With rippling piano and surprisingly muscular drums and anchoring bass they develop a powerful performance. The trio keep their foot down on the closer "Pablo" with more heavy handed piano and percussion and thick bass offering a potent strum, showing that the group is really going for it. This is jazz improvisation of an extremely high order, incorporating a deft bass solo and an energetic drum feature leading to the conclusion. Added to this disc is near nineteen minute extended live improvisation "Blood" with Mark Levinson replacing Carter on bass, recorded one year later in The Netherlands. The group must have been a sight to see as they really strike out for the territory with deeply percussive and powerful piano and drums with stoic bass holding the keyboard and percussion to task. This is a truly excellent disc, and an early contender for one of the year's best historical reissues. Paul Bley's music is often a cipher to me, but this album was a revelation in terms of musicianship and improvisation, and was also another excellent ezz-thetics production with crisp remastering and thoughtful liner notes. Touching and Blood Revisited - Squidco

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