born on 10/11/1932 in Montréal, Québec, Canada
died on 3/1/2016 in Stuart, FL, United States
Paul Bley, CM (born November 10, 1932), is a pianist known for his contributions to the free jazz movement of the 1960s as well as his innovations and influence on trio playing. Bley has been a long-time resident of the United States. His music characteristically features strong senses both of melodic voicing and space.
Paul Bley was born in Montreal, Canada; his adoptive parents were Betty Marcovitch, an immigrant from Romania, and Joe Bley, owner of an embroidery factory.
In the 1950s he founded the Jazz Workshop in Montreal, performing and recording there with Charlie Parker. He also performed with Lester Young and Ben Webster at that time. In 1953 he conducted for Charles Mingus on the Charles Mingus and His Orchestra album and the same year Mingus produced the Introducing Paul Bley album with Mingus and Art Blakey. In 1960 Bley recorded on piano with the Charles Mingus Group.
In the early 1960s he was part of the Jimmy Giuffre 3, a clarinet, piano and bass trio with bassist Steve Swallow. The quiet understatement of this music makes it possible to overlook its degree of innovation. As well as a repertoire introducing compositions by his ex-wife Carla Bley, the group's music moved towards free improvisation based on close empathy.
In 1964 Bley was instrumental in the formation of the Jazz Composers Guild, a co-operative organisation which brought together many free jazz musicians in New York: Roswell Rudd, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, his ex-wife Carla Bley, Michael Mantler, Sun Ra, and others. The guild organized weekly concerts and created a forum for the "jazz revolution" of 1964.
Bley had long been interested in expanding the palette of his music using unconventional sounds (such as playing directly on the piano-strings). It was therefore consistent that he took an interest in new electronic possibilities appearing in the late 1960s. He pioneered the use of Moog synthesizers, performing with them before a live audience for the first time at Philharmonic Hall in New York City on December 26, 1969.
This led into a period of the "Bley-Peacock Synthesizer Show", a group where he worked with songwriter Annette Peacock, including Improvisie, a French release of two extended improvisiational tracks with Paul on melodic electric piano and modulated synthesizer supporting Annette Peacock's remarkable tonal experiments singing through what sounds to be a Maestro (Tom Oberheim designed) Ring Modulator, with percussion by Dutch free jazz drummer Han Bennink.
Subsequently Bley returned to a predominant focus on the piano itself.
During the 1970s, Bley, in partnership with videographer Carol Goss, was responsible for an important multi-media initiative, Improvising Artists, which issued LPs and videos documenting the solo piano recordings by Sun Ra and other works of free jazz with Jimmy Giuffre, Lee Konitz, Gary Peacock, Lester Bowie, John Gilmore, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Steve Lacy and others. Bley and Goss are credited in a Billboard Magazine cover story with the first "music video" as a result of the recorded and live performance collaborations they produced with jazz musicians and video artists.
Bley was featured in the 1981 documentary film Imagine the Sound, in which he performs and discusses the history of his music.
In the 1990s, Bley joined the faculty of the New England Music Conservatory, however he no longer teaches there. Musicians of note Satoko Fujii and Yitzhak Yedid have studied with Bley at NEC.
Bley has continued to tour internationally and record prodigiously, with well over a hundred CDs released. In 1999 his autobiography, Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz, was published. In 2003 Time Will Tell: Conversations with Paul Bley was published. In 2004 Paul Bley: la logica del caso (Paul Bley: The Logic of Chance) was published in Italian. In 2008, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
- America Records
- 1971: The Fabulous Paul Bley Quintet (Live recording from Hillcrest Club, Los Angeles, 1958)
- 1972: Improvisie
- ECM Records
- 1970: Paul Bley with Gary Peacock
- 1971: Ballads
- 1972: Open, to Love
- 1986: Fragments
- 1987: The Paul Bley Quartet
- 1991: In the Evenings Out There
- 1994: Time Will Tell (with Evan Parker and Barre Phillips)
- 1999: Not Two, Not One (with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian)
- 2000: Sankt Gerold (with Evan Parker and Barre Phillips)
- 2007: Solo in Mondsee
- 1970: Dual Unity (with Annette Peacock, Han Bennink, Mario Pavone, Laurence Cook)
- 1975: Copenhagen and Haarlem (Live recordings 1965 and 1966)
- Improvising Artists (Bley's own label)
- 1974: Jaco
- 1975: Quiet Song (with Jimmy Giuffre and Bill Connors)
- 1975: Alone, Again
- 1975: Turning Point (with John Gilmore, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian), orig. Savoy mono recordings, March 9, 1964
- 1976: Virtuosi
- 1977: Japan Suite
- 1977: Coleman Classics Vol. 1 (Four more tracks of the Hillcrest Club recording from 1958)
- 1977: Axis
- 1978: IAI Festival (with Giuffre / Konitz / Conners / Bley)
- 1987: Solo
- 1991: A Musing (with Jon Ballantyne)
- 1993: Sweet Time
- 1993: Double Time
- 1993: Know Time
- 1994: Outside In (with Sonny Greenwich)
- 1996: Touche (with Kenny Wheeler)
- 2001: Basics
- 2004: Nothing to Declare
- 2008: About Time
- Postcards Records
- 1994: Synth Thesis
- 1994: What If (with Bruce Ditmas as leader, John Abercrombie, Sam Rivers, Dominic Richards)
- 1996: Music for the Millennium (with Ralph Simon as leader, Gary Peacock, Julian Priester)
- Soul Note
- 1983: Tango Palace
- 1983: Sonor
- 1985: Hot (with John Scofield)
- 1987: Notes (with Paul Motian)
- 1988: Live at Sweet Basil (with John Abercrombie)
- 1990: Memoirs (with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian)
- 1992: Mindset (with Gary Peacock)
- 1994: Chaos (with Furio DiCastro and Tony Oxley)
- 1973: Paul Bley/NHØP (with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen)
- 1985: Questions
- 1985: My Standard
- 1986: Diane (with Chet Baker)
- 1986: Live & Live Again (with Jesper Lundgaard)
- 1987: Indian Summer (with Ron McClure and Barry Altschul)
- 1988: Solo Piano
- 1989: The Nearness of You (with Ron McClure and Billy Hart)
- 1989: Rejoicing (with Michal Urbaniak, Ron McClure and Barry Altschul)
- 1989: Bebopbebopbebopbebop (with Bob Cranshaw and Keith Copeland)
- 1991: Plays Carla Bley (with Marc Johnson and Jeff Williams)
- 1992: Caravan Suite
- 1992: At Copenhagen Jazz House
- 1993: If We May (with Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum)
- 1994: Speachless (with Rich Perry, Jay Anderson and Victor Lewis)
- 1996: Reality Check (with Jay Anderson and Victor Lewis)
- 1998: Notes on Ornette (with Jay Anderson and Jeff Hirshfield)
- Other labels
- 1953: Introducing Paul Bley (Debut)
- 1954: Paul Bley (EmArcy)
- 1962: Floater Syndrome (Savoy Records | Vogue)with Steve Swallow and Pete LaRoca
- 1963: Footloose!, Savoy
- 1964: Turns, Savoy, reissued 1988 (in part identical with Turning Point on Improvising Artists)
- 1964: Barrage (with Marshall Allen, Dewey Johnson, Eddie Gomez, Milford Graves), ESP
- 1965: Closer (with Barry Altschul, Steve Swallow), ESP
- 1965: Touching, Fontana
- 1965: Blood, Fontana
- 1966: In Harlem - Blood, Polydor
- 1966: Ramblin, BYG
- 1968: Mr. Joy, Limelight
- 1973: Scorpio (with David Holland, Barry Altschul), Milestone
- 1983: Tears, Owl
- 1990: Partners (with Gary Peacock), Owl
- 1990: Paul Bley 12(+6) In a Row (with Franz Koglman and Hans Koch)
- 1992: Annette (with Franz Koglmann, Gary Peacock), hatART
- 1993: Homage to Carla, Owl
With Don Ellis
- Out of Nowhere (Candid, 1961 )
- Essence (Pacific Jazz, 1962)
- 1961: The Jimmy Giuffre 3 - Fusion, Verve
- 1961: The Jimmy Giuffre 3 - Thesis, Verve (Remixed rerelease by ECM together with Fusion, 1992)
- 1961: Jimmy Giuffre Trio Live in Europe 1961, Raretone, 1984
- 1961: Emphasis, Stuttgart 1961, hatART, 1993
- 1961: Flight, Bremen 1961, hatART, 1993
- 1962: Free Fall, Columbia
- 1989: The Life of a Trio (2 volumes), Owl
- 1992: Fly Away Little Bird, Owl
- 1993: Conversations with a Goose, Soul Note, 1996
With Sonny Rollins
- 1963: Sonny Meets Hawk!, RCA Victor
- 1963: Tokyo 1963, Rare Live Recordings
With Marion Brown
- 1974: Sweet Earth Flying, Impulse!
With Charlie Haden
- 1989: The Montreal Tapes: with Paul Bley and Paul Motian, Verve
With Lee Konitz
- 1997: Out Of Nowhere, SteepleChase
With John Surman
- 1991: Adventure Playground, ECM
With Andreas Willers
- 2001: In the North, Between the Lines
- Paul Bley with David Lee (January 1999). Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz, Véhicule Press.
- Bley Paul biography www.jazz.com
- Paul Bley with David Lee: Stopping Time. Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz, Vehicule Press, 1999.
- Stopping Time
- ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JAZZ MUSICIANS.
- List of faculty at New England Conservatory of Music.
- Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada.
- [Paul Bley at All Music Guide Allmusic review]
- Paul Bley homepage
- Biography (in German and English) and bibliography (in English)