Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz
by Paul Bley with David Lee
published by Vehicule Press
Realease Date: November 1999
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The Jazz Zine Review
Paul Bley is a visionary who has spent most of his musical life waiting for the second coming of a new form of jazz, only freer. He's a musician that never stands still and has played and experimented his way into a solid place in the jazz world. This book is a chronicle of the major events in his life.
Born in Montreal Canada in 1932, he began the study of the violin at age five. He came to New York, studied composition at Julliard and played with the giants. He was responsible for bringing, playing with, and looking after Charlie Parker on a tour through Montreal.
This book is a wonderful account of a unique career of a jazz player that has done it all. The stories and vignettes flow nicely and the reader gets a true understanding and feeling of what it's like to be an active and, most of all, searching jazz musician.
The book has many great moments. It has all the wit, charm and pain that make up the life of someone looking to revolutionize the form of playing. One of my favorite passages from the book tells the story of the efforts and struggles that Paul went through that led up to be the first to play on his 'portable' Moog Synthesizer at Philharmonic Hall in December 1969.
Throughout his career, Mr. Bley would go through any extreme or adventure, be it with experimental video to electronics to try to find that voice that would turn the jazz world around into something new. Some of his richer contributions have come with the collaborations of Jimmy Guiffre and Gary Peacock and his former wife, Carla. Many of these recordings have since gone on to become jazz classics.
Another illustrative passage from the book narrates his experiences on a recording session with Chet Baker. Mr. Bley tells how he learned to play at an extremely slow pace. This came because of Chet telling him that he cannot play any faster than he could sing. From that experience, Paul learned the values of leaving out in his music. After reading this passage, I dug out my old reel to reel tapes to find that particular recording they made together. Indeed, the pace is so very slow but never agonizing. In a very musical sense, every note is each its own statement of beauty.
Cooperative groups, as opposed to groups led by a single leader, was one of the components that have occurred through the years. Both in jazz and in other forms of music, this has changed many attitudes and directions that jazz has taken. Paul vividly tells about his experiences with some dictatorial traits some leaders demanded from their groups.
Although he may never have found that next thing to revolutionize jazz,
surely Mr. Bley has developed several components and facets to the music.
Each of these pieces has formed and influenced in it's own way how jazz music
is being played today. Further, he is still out there and still looking and
changing as he continues to grow.
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