Tag Archives: Paul Bley

[106] Paul Bley – Fragments

17 Apr

Described by various reviewers as “cold” or even “frigid”, Fragments is a very different Jazz animal to much of what I’ve discovered to date in the 1,000.


The best moniker I have come accross to explain what it is I’m listening to here is “Chamber Jazz”.  Here is music for an audience, serious music to be examined and appreciated, to be enjoyed intellectually rather than intuitively.

Once I recognize this, there is much to enjoy in these reflective, measured compositions.

Bley apparently ascribes to the truism that the only thing that practice makes you better at is practicing, so these recordings are apparently hugely improvised, although planned and discussed at great length before instruments were ever picked up and tapes set to roll.

The result is an intriguing mix of structure and spontenaity, of unexpected chords being presented, then deconstructed by piano, guitar and sax in fascinating ways.

This is in no way background music, not something that will pleasantly set a mood over food or drinks.  It demands attention and is quite unlike anything I have heard before.

The closest analog would perhaps be the Minimalist works of Reich and Glass that I devoured at University, but Bley and company are somehow more tonal – more musical – than those experimental works.

Fragments at once welcomes you into an embrace while inviting you to keep a respectful distance.

The one exception is the vigorous and almost Rock-like “Line Down”.  Guitar develops some distortion and the drums drive the piece forward, but still without ever being the instrument to kep the beat.  Here, I can all but smell the smoke, taste the bourbon.

Here is the Free Jazz (in every definition of the word “free” you care to choose) which I have been exploring and enjoying – indeed, enjoying exploring.

It just goes to show the huge range of styles and philosophies which begin to make up the four little letters that spell JAZZ.

This may not be my favorite style – I find the Hard Bop of Blakey and the Free Jazz of Threadgill more actively enjoyable – but there is undoubtedly a time and place for listening to these carefully constructed, painstakingly unrehearsed fragments of Paul Bley.

Next Week:  The Blind Boys of Alabama – Spirit of the Century

Owned before blogging? No. (10 of 106 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (16 of 106 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (87 of 106 = 82%)


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