Paul Bley’s Oslo Concert (ECM)

Paul Bley

Play Blue (Oslo Concert)

ECM CD 2373

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Four originals and “Pent-Up House,” a Sonny Rollins tune, are captured on this recording of pianist Paul Bley in a solo setting at the 2008 Oslo Jazz Festival. Bley, then 75, displayed undiminished creativity and well preserved chops. Indeed, many a younger postmodern jazz pianist could learn a great deal from assiduously studying this outing. Flights of virtuosic fancy and rhythmically mutable free play are balanced by bluesy refrains and structural returns to previously heard harmonic patterns and riffs. Tonality of a chromatic sort tap dances around the edges of outside playing. But the most magical thing about it all is the unerring sense of pacing; of knowing exactly when to move from one section to the next. Thus, along with the aforementioned delicious details, the formal proportions of these wide ranging and long form compositions are an important aspect of what makes them so worth savoring.