2006/08/26

Paul Bley - Open, To Love [new link]

this lovely solo piano offering will be the beginning of some modern and avant garde jazz records to come. whether structured or free, the selection process from my library will be based on 1 or all 3 of the following criteria: conceptually innovative, formally challenging, and lastly, maybe the most important, the quality every chosen record will possess - listenable. listenable to me means something I love to play on a regular basis. in other words, i will be leaning towards the meditative, understated, subtle, and sometimes swinging rather than the cataclysmic, cathartic, and furiously energetic. thus as jaw droppingly amazing and important as artists such as Peter Brotzmann, Albert Ayler or Cecil Taylor are, I will not be posting much of their work.

I'm sure those who are interested can find plenty of information about Paul Bley on the web, and there are probably a couple of biographies floating around as well. it will suffice to abbreviate here that his work is about the navigation of inner worlds - my kind of piano player.

what is interesting is the sometimes fine, but DEFINITE line between this kind of tender, heart-warming music and schmaltzy, kitschy, easy-listening smooth jazz. it is the same line between Brian Eno and New Age music (the line that Tangerine Dream sadly crossed around 1982).

hard to define or explain... is it about becoming formulaic? not exactly... is it the difference between (as someone mentioned) expression and signification? maybe. anyone feel up to the challenge?


part one and part two (not conjoined)

13 comments:

square dancer said...

Know exactly what you mean with that fine line. Like you said, maybe it has to do with the difference between music that's strictly formulaic, adhering to very conservative notions of "beauty" or "calmness", and music that introduces a certain degree of imagination and unpredicability, surprising you with an unexpected little turn of phrase (or whatever you want to call it)?

But then again, this doesn't seem to matter that much with certain kinds of music. Because, eg a very competently crafted, but totally generic techno track can be very enjoyable, great even in its own way. Does it also have to do with the expectations we bring to a certain kind of music? Like, we don't necessarily demand the same kind of individual expressivness, distintness etc from more scene-focussed music like house or techno that we demand from more "auteurist" musics? So that with dance music, though there are certain distinct and outstanding records, artists etc., it's still the bigger picture of the scene/culture and its traditions that's more important.

Just some thoughts (that hopefully make a bit of sense). Anyway, the Bley record is very beautiful. Have yet to listen to the J-Zone album, but if it's nearly as good as whup Ass and Pimps it has to be great. Have a nice one!

zhao said...

interesting points you bring up, S. Dancer, and you are also mixing in other issues - such as the inherently different functions, and different contexts, of dance music versus song-writing.

yet certainly the line between cheesy and good also exist in dance music - progressive trance and minimal techno share much formal similarities, and maybe sound the same to some people, yet to us one is unbearable and the other we can't get enough of.

billy g said...

wow. this is definitely different. it is jazz, I know I am listening to jazz, but strange movements happen (some oddly forced parallel chord progression in "harlem" for example) that make me listen more intently. this is a remarkably casual recording at times, and then I realize that this is almost "difficult" music, the it IS difficult music, and then he lets out some very typical/schmaltzy jazz voicing.....but with ease, like it "means nothing" and is just a part of the music. With a lack of academicism is what i'm getting at.

thanks for posting this great and puzzling record. i'd write more if I wasn't at work/had a better grasp on "jazz" as a historical dialogue/critical text.

zhao said...

billy G is right. that the afore mentioned "line" in this particular case may not be all that fine. that this music is obviously structurally sophisticated and there is clearly much more than the usual going on. I guess it's not the perfect example for the question I posed...

SENDERON said...

Thanks

Nice playing, nice way of thinking music

billy g said...

In my response I totally ignored the "expression/signification" question, it wasn't at the front of my reaction to the Bley record (at least textually). I feel it is something this record definitely brings up, but also complicates, so maybe not the best "introduction" to your question, but a great choice nonetheless. This complication rests on the "enjoyability" of the record, and I can say this about a lot of albums I truly enjoy and often come back to. The material is enjoyable, but it is Bley's playing ("expression") that reveals or communicates meaning ("signification"). For arguments sake (bouncing from your original post), Han Bennik or Ayler or Taylor's inital "expression" (their singular techniques and approaches to their instruments) immediately produce the meaning of the work. That said, I don't believe this is necessarily the case, but I'm drawing an opposition in order to fill in the appropriate empty space with dialogue etc. What thrills me about this record is listening to Bley negotiate "jazz" (as his "language") and "avant-garde" (as his mode of communication) to speak as clearly as possible, but in as rich a language as can be mustered.
ok. back to work.

square dancer said...

Billy g pretty much nailed own aspect that I was trying to get at with my ramblings about unpredictability, formal surprise etc. Ie, even within the parameters of genre or whatever there's a difference between stuff that's just going through the motions and stuff where you have those kind of micro-subversions: taking chances with the form, bending and stretching it or breaking out from a familiar idiom and returning to it the next moment etc.

regarding zhao's trance/minimal techno example: this may be a key difference between most prog house and trance and eg those artists on Kompakt who infuse their minimal techno/micro house with trance-y elements. But, as you hinted at, one has to have a "trained ear" to recognize the differences.

(This somehow ties in with the post on subjectivity on your other blog. To really be able to listen and see requires work. Similiar to a sommelier who needs years of practice and experience until he is able to judge a wine, smell and taste the components that make up a good wine etc. Whereas the "it's all subjective"-stance goes for instant gratification.)

Some further questions: What is the role and importance of the artist's self-awareness in all this?

And could it be that a certain level of craft automatically lifts an aesthetic artifact above the mundane and run-of-the-mill? Meaning that a certain degree of skill, intelligence and care that goes into creating something transcends it beyond mere competent engineering.

Sorry, rambling again! And of course I got at least a dozen issues all tangled up in that post...

zhao said...

Signification versus Expression... I was thinking of the difference between actual embodiment and mere representation; a film evoking the feeling of sadness rather than the main character stating: "I am sad."

it is the difference between first hand, immediate, sensory, experiential meaning, and meaning derived from symbolic language - where something is not what it is, but stands for something else.

.... to be continued...

Anonymous said...

Zhao~Do you have Paul Bley's (solo 1974 ) Alone Again?
P.B. continues digging deep into the interior landscape. I listened to my vinyl copy just this month.
Thank you for Open, To Love.

John

zhao said...

no, I have not heard Alone Again. must be nice

makes me think of "Monk Alone"... or Mal Waldron's "Left Alone"

rambling typist said...

Thanks Zhao. I'm no good at putting my listening experiences into words and I lack the knowledge to analyse and theorize about it, but I've known Paul Bley's music for more than ten years now and it has never yet disappointed me. It's friendly, intelligent and rewarding.

zhao said...

R. Typist: and perhaps nothing more needs to be said.

ryan said...

Any chance that you'd be willing to repost this?

Thanks!