Paul Bley

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Paul Bley
Paul Bley.jpg
Paul Bley recording solo piano in 2006
Background information
Birth name Hyman Paul Bley
Born (1932-11-10)November 10, 1932
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Died January 3, 2016(2016-01-03) (aged 83)
Stuart, Florida, United States
Genres Free jazz, avant-garde jazz, post bop
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Piano
Associated acts Barry Altschul, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre, Charlie Haden, Charles Mingus, Paul Motian, Annette Peacock, Gary Peacock, Sonny Rollins, Steve Swallow
Notable instruments
Moog synthesizer, ARP synthesizer, Fender Rhodes

Hyman Paul Bley, CM (November 10, 1932 – January 3, 2016) was a Canadian pianist known for his contributions to the free jazz movement of the 1960s as well as his innovations and influence on trio playing. Bley was a long-time resident of the United States. His music characteristically featured strong senses both of melodic voicing and space.

Early life[edit]

Bley was born in Montreal, Quebec, on November 10, 1932.[1] His adoptive parents were Betty Marcovitch, an immigrant from Romania, and Joe Bley, owner of an embroidery factory.[2][3]

Later life and career[edit]

In the 1950s Bley founded the Jazz Workshop in Montreal, performing on piano and recording with bebop alto saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker. He also performed with tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Ben Webster at that time. In 1953 he conducted for bassist Charles Mingus on the Charles Mingus and His Orchestra album. That year Mingus produced the Introducing Paul Bley album with Mingus and drummer Art Blakey.[4] In 1960 Bley recorded on piano with the Charles Mingus Group.

In 1958, Bley hired young avant garde musicians Don Cherry, alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins to play at the Hillcrest Club in California.[5]

In the early 1960s Bley was part of the Jimmy Giuffre 3, with Giuffre on clarinet, and bassist Steve Swallow. Its repertoire included compositions by his ex-wife, pianist and organist Carla Bley. The group's music moved towards chamber jazz and free jazz.[6] During the same period, Bley was touring and recording with tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, which culminated with the RCA Victor album Sonny Meets Hawk! with tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.[5]

In 1964 Bley was instrumental in the formation of the Jazz Composers Guild, a co-operative organization which brought together many free jazz musicians in New York: Roswell Rudd, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Carla Bley, Michael Mantler, Sun Ra, and others. The guild organized weekly concerts and created a forum for the "jazz revolution" of 1964.[5][6][7]

In the late 1960s, Bley took an interest in new electronic possibilities. He pioneered the use of Moog synthesizers, performing with them before an audience for the first time at Philharmonic Hall in New York City on December 26, 1969. This "Bley-Peacock Synthesizer Show" performance, a group with his second wife Annette Peacock, who had written much of his personal repertoire since 1964, was followed by her playing on the recordings Dual Unity (credited to "Annette & Paul Bley") and Improvisie.[6] The latter was a French release of two extended improvisational tracks with Bley on synthesizers, Peacock's voice and keyboards, and percussion by Dutch free jazz drummer Han Bennink, who had also appeared on part of Dual Unity.[8]

During the 1970s, Bley and his third wife, videographer Carol Goss, founded the production company Improvising Artists. The label issued Jaco, the first recording of Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius[9] and other records and videos by Sun Ra, Giuffre, Lee Konitz, Dave Holland and others. Bley and Goss are credited in a Billboard cover story with the first commercial "music video".[10]

Bley was featured in the 1981 documentary film Imagine the Sound, in which he performs and discusses the history of his music.[11]

In the 1990s, Bley joined the faculty of the New England Music Conservatory,[10] where he taught musicians Satoko Fujii[12] and Yitzhak Yedid.[13]

Bley continued to tour internationally and record profusely, releasing almost a hundred recordings. He also published several books, such as autobiographies in 1999 (Stopping Time)[10] and 2003 (Time Will Tell).[14] In 2008, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.[15] He died on January 3, 2016, at home in Stuart, Florida, at the age of 83.[6][16]


Main article: Paul Bley discography


  1. ^ Schudel, Matt (2016-01-05). "Paul Bley, innovative pianist in modern jazz, dies at 83". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-01-06. 
  2. ^ Paul Bley with David Lee (January 1999). Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz. Véhicule Press. p. 10. ISBN 1-55065-111-0. 
  3. ^ Bley Paul biography
  4. ^ Ratliff, Ben (5 January 2016). "Paul Bley, Adventurous Jazz Pianist, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Gans, Charles J. (5 January 2016). "Avant-garde jazz pianist Paul Bley dies at 83 in Florida". Cybercast News Service. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d Chagollan, Steve (5 January 2016). "Paul Bley, Influential Jazz Pianist, Dies at 83". Variety (magazine). Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Paul Bley with David Lee: Stopping Time. Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz, Vehicule Press, 1999.
  8. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Improvisie - Paul Bley". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Limbong, Andrew; Jarenwattananon, Patrick (5 January 2016). "Paul Bley, Influential Jazz Pianist, Has Died". NPR. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c Fraser, David (7 September 2008). "Paul Bley". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  11. ^ "Imagine the Sound". Spinx Productions. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  12. ^ Kopman, Budd (12 May 2008). "Satoko Fujii featuring Paul Bley: Something About Water (1996)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  13. ^ Gottschalk, Kurt (21 October 2003). "Yitzhak Yedid: Myth of the Cave (2003)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  14. ^ Weinstein, Norman (13 January 2004). "Time Will Tell: Conversations With Paul Bley". All About Jazz. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  15. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". 
  16. ^ Hum, Peter (5 January 2016). "RIP, Paul Bley". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 6 January 2016. 

External links[edit]