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December 24, 2009

"Closer" - Paul Bley

I had once seen the 1981 film Imagine the Sound. What I remember most about Paul Bley's appearance is his frustration with the role of the percussionist in free-improvised music. How he wanted to eliminate the drummer from his music because he felt it was too restricting. Well in this ESP-Disk date, you don't get that sense of restriction at all.

Recorded shortly after his album, Barrage, he provided ten trio tracks for us. The liner notes describe the album as a "languid reflection" of sort, and I couldn't agree more. The outcome is a unique sound and solid listening experience. All of the songs are composed by Carla Bley with the exception of Pigfoot by Paul himself, Cartoon by Annette Peacock, and Crossroads by Ornette Coleman (check out the Live at the Hillcrest Club album).

The production really contributes to a lot of the feeling. Some songs appear more free, while others appear more structured. The piano is soft yet vibrant, the drums at times can conflict with piano, and the bass is just in there enough to remain in the background as a support mechanism. Certain songs seem more straight ahead with rhythm, while others offer the downbeat we all love, with a few that appear to be loose and even lacking a rhythm.

The timings are really nice, and these short tracks almost feel like a hit and run assault on the listener -- ten tracks squeezed into less than 30 minutes. The solos are quick, but don't feel rushed or competitive. It all feels like a giant buld up to the closing title, Cartoon. The composition itself is tame, but Bley throws in a lot of dissonance and then the solos are free as can be with an attack on our ears. Seeming like an artillery even though it's a trio.
1965 - ESP Disk'.

Paul Bley - piano; Barry Altschul - percussion; Steve Swallow - bass

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