Canadian jazz pianist Paul Bley dies at 83

NEW YORK -- Visionary Canadian-born pianist Paul Bley, a pivotal figure in the avant-garde jazz movement known for his innovative trio and solo recordings, has died.

See Full Article

He was 83.

Bley died Sunday of natural causes at his winter residence in Stuart, Florida, said Tina Pelikan, publicist for the ECM record label, citing family members.

Throughout his career, Bley was a musical adventurer determined to find his own voice. "If I come up with a phrase that sounds like somebody else, I don't play it," he said in a 2006 interview for the website All About Jazz.

He challenged the bebop orthodoxy, adapting the free jazz of saxophonist Ornette Coleman for the piano, offering a quieter, moodier version. He later pioneered experiments with synthesizers.

His groundbreaking piano trios -- notably with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian -- liberated rhythm instruments from their traditional supporting roles, making everyone equal as improvisers.

Bley also helped introduce promising young musicians such as guitarist Pat Metheny and electric bassist Jaco Pastorius, and influenced many musicians including pianist Keith Jarrett and guitarist Bill Frisell.

Born Nov. 10, 1932, in Montreal, Bley began studying music at age 5, starting on violin and switching to piano by age 7.

As a teenager, he was already playing gigs around Montreal, and at age 17 replaced fellow Montreal pianist Oscar Peterson at the Alberta Lounge. Bley moved to New York in 1950 to study at Juilliard, but remained active in his home city, where he formed the Montreal Jazz Workshop, playing with such bebop legends as Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins.

In New York, he participated in pianist Lennie Tristano's experimental jazz workshops and met bassist Charles Mingus, who produced and played on Bley's 1953 debut recording, "Introducing Paul Bley."

In 1957, Bley moved to Los Angeles where he performed with trumpeter Chet Baker. In 1958, Bley invited a then-unknown Ornette Coleman and his quartet with drummer Billy Higgins, trumpeter Don Cherry and bassist Charlie Haden to play with him at the Hillcrest Club.

That gig led Bley to be regarded as "the man who headed the palace coup that overthrew bebop" in the Penguin Guide to Jazz. In 1959, Coleman's quartet appeared at New York's Five Spot jazz club and released the album "The Shape of Jazz to Come" -- a seminal moment in jazz history that ushered in the free jazz movement.

Bley "was the one who understood what Ornette was doing and who brought that kind of tonal mobility and melodic freedom to the piano," the noted critic Stanley Crouch once observed.

He married pianist and composer Karen Borg, who changed her name to Carla Bley, and the couple moved back to New York in 1959. His groups featured her compositions.

Bley worked in clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre's avant-garde chamber jazz trio, and then formed his own group with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Pete La Roca, releasing the influential 1963 album "Footloose."

He turned down an invitation to join Miles Davis' band, choosing instead to tour in 1963 with Sonny Rollins, with whom he recorded the album "Sonny Meets Hawk" featuring tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.

Bley helped form the co-operative Jazz Composers Guild in 1964 which brought together many of the leading avant-garde jazz musicians in New York, including pianist Cecil Taylor and saxophonist Archie Shepp.

In the late 1960s, Bley became one of the first jazz musicians to use electronics and Moog synthesizers. He showcased the songs of his second wife, the synth-playing singer Annette Peacock, with whom he performed the first-ever live performance with a portable Moog audio synthesizer at Philharmonic Hall in New York in 1969 and made several recordings.

During the 1970s, Bley partnered with his future third wife, videographer Carol Goss, to create their own production company, Improvising Artists Inc., which issued LPs and some of the first music videos.

In 1972, he released his first solo piano album, "Open, to Love" for ECM, and would record a series of solo albums after 2000, including "Play Blue: Oslo Concert" (ECM) released in 2014.

Describing his solo improvised concerts, Bley told the New York Times in a 2000 interview:"The purpose of playing a concert should be to know something at the end of it that you didn't know at the beginning."

Bley released more than 100 albums as a leader and sideman. He was featured in the 1981 documentary "Imagine the Sound" and wrote an autobiography, "Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz." In 2008, he was named a member of the Order of Canada.

Private memorial services are planned.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Box Office Top 20: 'Dunkirk,' 'Girls Trip' score

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- The news was good for two of the three new openers this weekend. Christopher Nolan's World War II epic "Dunkirk" topped the charts with $50.5 million, while the buddy comedy "Girls Trip" earned $31.2 million to take second place. Source
  • 'Despacito' singers veto Venezuelan leader's campaign remix

    Entertainment CTV News
    CARACAS, Venezuela -- There's a new take on the hit Latin pop song "Despacito." And this one is not garnering accolades from its producers. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro premiered a remix of the song by Puerto Rican duo Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee Sunday, transforming the record-setting single about a slow, romantic seduction into a campaign jingle for his contested constitution rewrite. Source
  • Charlize Theron lost out on 'Showgirls' role to Elizabeth Berkley

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Charlize Theron is secretly glad she missed out on the lead role in Showgirls, because the movie was hammered by the critics. The role of Nomi Malone in the 1995 Paul Vorhoeven film went to Elizabeth Berkley after the Monster star fought hard for the part, convinced it would give her fledgling Hollywood career a huge boost. Source
  • 'The Defenders' review: This is the Marvel team-up you hoped for - Iron Fist and all

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    "The Defenders" is the type of superhero streaming that we've come to expect from Netflix's live-action Marvel productions. Well worth the wait, the new show is every bit the event that Marvel fans hoped it could be. Source
  • Justin Bieber on axed concerts: 'I’ve been on tour for two years!'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Justin Bieber is cancelling the rest of his Purpose World Tour “due to unforeseen circumstances.” His representatives didn’t offer details about the cancellation in a statement released Monday but said the singer “loves his fans and hates to disappoint them. Source
  • Kristen Stewart crashes same-sex nuptials in Winnipeg

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Hollywood starlet Kristen Stewart never starred in Wedding Crashers, but her antics over the weekend could land the 27-year-old in the sequel. Winnipeg newlyweds Kirsten and Kayleigh Jennings received quite the wedding gift – and surprise guests --after exchanging vows in their backyard and arriving at restaurant Pizzeria Gusto for their reception on Saturday night. Source
  • Hollywood star Kristen Stewart crashes Winnipeg wedding

    Entertainment CBC News
    Two Winnipeg brides got a bit of a surprise this weekend when Hollywood star Kristen Stewart crashed their wedding. Kirsten and Kayleigh Jennings tied the knot Saturday in a backyard in River Heights "It was kind of touch-and-go because on Saturday we had those torrential downpours. Source
  • THE ROCK: Forever a proud SUNshine Boy

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Never forget your roots! That’s The Rock’s motto. In Johnson’s “The Rock x Siri Dominate The Day” Apple Commercial released recently, viewers may have noticed the former wrestler’s phone background in the commercial was a picture of a young Johnson donning a turtleneck and fanny pack in his 1997 Toronto Sun SUNshine Boy photo shoot. Source
  • Bond 25 gets official release date

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Quick, book the babysitter. The 25th instalment in the decades-old James Bond series will open Nov. 8, 2019. The announcement was made Monday on Bond’s official Twitter account. Daniel Craig has not officially renewed his licence to kill, but in April Page Six reported that the star of four previous 007 films – Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre – would be returning for one final outing as the secret agent. Source
  • ‘I need a black dude?’: Britney Spears rejected BiP’s DeMario Jackson in hilarious 2008 video

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Britney needs a black dude? Back in 2008, the Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise hopeful DeMario Jackson certainly thought so. A new video has surfaced showing Britney leaving a Ralphs supermarket in Los Angeles with her then boyfriend, Adnan Ghalib, in January 2008. Source