Previously unreleased, this 1999 recital finds pianist Paul Bley (1932-2016), drummer Paul Motian (1931-2011) and bassist Gary Peacock (b. 1935) at the height of their mature mutual powers. This Lugano-recorded set is particularly notable since concentration is on the pianist’s infrequently exposed compositions.
A lively run-through of Mazatlan begins the showcase, as nuanced keyboard strategies pulsate and pause with unexpected sonic detours while a sinewy tandem dialogue is established with Peacock. Meanwhile Motian’s shattered clanks help juice Bley’s unexpected bursts of low-pitched emphasis and swelling timbres which recap the head. Not known for funkiness, Bley still invests Told You So with a tranche of walking blues even as he fragments the narrative with bent notes and expansive tonal quivers. The selections also encompass a relaxed, impressionistic and balanced variant of I Loves You, Porgy, taken at a moderate tempo. As well, the bassist’s subtly low-pitched string swipes and pulls alternate with vigorous, lightning-quick patterning when playing his own Moor.
Trio skills are best expressed on the Ornette Coleman-composed title track, With the pianist’s swift glissandi changing the exposition’s speed and pitch nearly every bar, the performance intensifies once drum rim shots and rattles combine with bass thwacks to emphasize the melody. Yet even as the trio collectively descends the scale to hit a groove, the originality of the tune – and by extension Bley’s conception of it – are confirmed when the ending lacks a conventional pattern completion. Twenty years on, the disc’s vigour and intensity still echo.