continuing with Bley, adding Evan Parker on reeds and Barre Phillips on bass - a great free jazz record for the coming autumn season.
just started a design project with a tight deadline, so here is an excerpt of a review from Pop Matters by Maurice Bottomley (haven't the slightest what he's on about suggesting that Bley's playing is normally not "emotional", but whatever) :
"Bley has a reputation, even within modern jazz circles as an overly cerebral player, which is mind-boggling enough. Add the fact that Evan Parker -- from Bristol, England -- is one of the more dogged exponents of wild atonalism and the seekers after melody are in trouble. Yet something rather pleasant takes place in the course of these encounters. Bley -- or perhaps it was the monastic setting -- seems to calm Parker down somewhat, whereas Parker's ceaseless stretching of sound brings out a more emotional quality in Bley's work than is usually the case. With Californian Barre Phillips unable to make an ugly noise even in his most vanguardist mode, the combined result is often rather poetic and lovely. Whether this is intended, I have no idea, but I, for one, am glad of it.
The answer may lie in the fact that this album was recorded (in 1996) after a long tour, based on the success of their first outing for ECM -- Time Will Tell (1994). There is a relaxed and easy relationship between the participants, ample space for solo pieces and an unhurriedness about the various duo and trio exchanges. Bley becomes almost Chopinesque at times and even Parker's weird "circular breathing" exercises have a fragile quality about them. Phillips, as I have mentioned already, is grace personified. The album has all the regulation parps, squawks and cacophonous interludes (I recommend Variation 10 for clearing your home of unwanted guests) but that is what they seem -- interludes. The dominant mood is contemplative and less dependant on the jagged edges associated with this genre. Not easy listening by any means but not as painful as some will imagine.
As for the Variations -- five are ensemble pieces, Bley and Phillips get two each and Parker three. Parker's contributions are the most demanding... One cannot help (but) marvel at his technique and the sheer variety of sounds he gets out of the reeds. That said, Variations six and seven (featuring Phillips) are my favourites as they offer an evocative but still adventurous journey through the instrument's whole range of possibilities. Yet if Phillips is consistently the most impressive, it is Bley who sticks in the mind the longest. With stately phrasing and layerings of melancholy chords, he proves himself to be nowhere near as dry and academic as his reputation suggests. Variations one, two and nine show him to best effect."