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Paul Bley - Solo in Mondsee


GA Russell
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Paul Bley has a new album out, Solo in Mondsee. Mondsee is a city in Austria where a Bösendorfer Imperial Grand piano is located.

As the title says, this is a solo piano album. There are ten tracks, entitled Mondsee Variations I-X, totalling 55 minutes.

I may be wrong, but I don't think a lot of forethought went into the music. I think this was a case of a master sitting down at the piano and improvising for an hour. Spontaneous jazz!

This is my seventh Bley album, but the other six were recorded between 1965 and 1972. I would expect an artist to change his style over the course of 35 years, and Bley has. The songs here are not as dry as the playing I associate with him. The chords and sound are not uniquely his. This reminds me a little bit of two Warren Bernhardt solo piano albums from the 70s that I have.

All the music is pleasant to listen to, and you can pay attention to it and be rewarded or else just keep it in the background.

CD Universe says: List Price $16.97; Their Price $15.45.

4 stars

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This is on ECM, right?

Ratliff gave it a positive review in Sunday's NYT. Admittedly, recent Bley ECM's have left me cold.

Yes, it's an ECM release.

I rank this in the middle of my seven Bley albums, although that is not quite fair because it is so different from the others. My first two were recorded in concert at Copenhagen and Haarlem in 1965 and 1966, and I think those are really special. I would next rank an ECM album called Ballads.

I like this more than his Open, to love solo album, which I've noticed is very popular on AAJ and maybe here too. I rank last his two Milestone albums with synthesizer, which are good but not as great as the others I have.

So I can't say that any of his albums have left me cold the way you feel, but as I say 1972 was a long time ago, and I have been out of touch with what he has been doing for 35 years.

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Paul Bley has a new album out, Solo in Mondsee. Mondsee is a city in Austria where a Bösendorfer Imperial Grand piano is located.

As the title says, this is a solo piano album. There are ten tracks, entitled Mondsee Variations I-X, totalling 55 minutes.

I may be wrong, but I don't think a lot of forethought went into the music.

Well, the second track is Ornette's "Latin Genetics", even if the CD says "all compositions by Paul Bley"... :rolleyes:

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This is on ECM, right?

Ratliff gave it a positive review in Sunday's NYT. Admittedly, recent Bley ECM's have left me cold.

Yes, it's an ECM release.

I rank this in the middle of my seven Bley albums, although that is not quite fair because it is so different from the others. My first two were recorded in concert at Copenhagen and Haarlem in 1965 and 1966, and I think those are really special. I would next rank an ECM album called Ballads.

I like this more than his Open, to love solo album, which I've noticed is very popular on AAJ and maybe here too. I rank last his two Milestone albums with synthesizer, which are good but not as great as the others I have.

So I can't say that any of his albums have left me cold the way you feel, but as I say 1972 was a long time ago, and I have been out of touch with what he has been doing for 35 years.

You're pretty much where I'm at, though I have about twenty of his albums. The stuff of the past several years with, say Evan Parker or John Surman, has not really held my interest. Haven't spun Open, to Love in a long time.

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Clifford, I see now that Solo in Mondsee was recorded in April of 2001.

That doesn't affect my opinion of the music. It just means that Bley progressed over 29 years since I last heard his work rather than 35.

But since you have so many of his albums, the date may mean something to you. Do you have any from 2001 that you have an opinion of?

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Huh, so it looks like they waited six years to issue it...

Sangkt Gerold seems viewed - by some - as a Bley classic (and it's from 2001), but that one I wasn't so into. Though the execution is technically top-notch, I suppose, the tunefulness and the surprises from so many of his earlier recordings are absent for the most part. For me, what's interesting with Bley is to hear how he wanders away from - and back into - a tune. Without significant tunes present, or even sketches of tunes, it's hard to see where he's coming from to feel where he's gone.

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Without significant tunes present, or even sketches of tunes, it's hard to see where he's coming from to feel where he's gone.

That sums up well how I feel about all jazz.

I have a few free jazz records I enjoy, most notably Sam Rivers' Sizzle from the mid-70s on Impulse!. But basically, I'm a lover of melodies.

That's why I wasn't crazy about Miles' lost quintet, which I saw twice while I was in college. I had the opportunity to see Miles' group perform The Cellar Door sessions, but I didn't know that it would be a radically different group and sound; and I had had about enough of Miles from what I had seen twice. Oh, how I wish now that I had gone!

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I have yet to listen to 'Solo in Mondsee' but judging from previous experiences, I'm much more a fan of the albums Paul Bley recorded for Owl (Tears, Homage to Carla, Partners, ...) than the ECM ones.

Not to mention the trio sessions with Jimmy Giuffre and Steve Swallow.

All great Bley music from the past twenty years.

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It's funny, I don't apply the same standards to Bley records that I do by others in the "free" milieu. And I wouldn't argue that Bley, as a musician, has found it necessary to evolve - I see a connection between more recent works and the very stretched-out, 20+ minutes he got from Annette Peacock's languid melodies. However, for my personal tastes, the last few Bley dates that I've heard haven't moved me as much as either his "old" trio sides or his work with Giuffre. Some of that stuff released on Hat Hut is out!

Haven't heard Tears, but it's been on my to-hear list.

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I have yet to listen to 'Solo in Mondsee' but judging from previous experiences, I'm much more a fan of the albums Paul Bley recorded for Owl (Tears, Homage to Carla, Partners, ...) than the ECM ones.

IMHO, the new ECM is a great album. I think you might as well give it a chance :)

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Anyone here familiar with/into Richard Grossman?

I've been working on cracking those trio recordings on Hat Hut, slowly, over the past year or so.

Try to find (maybe it's still available) his quintet CD for 9Winds, In the Air, with John Carter, Vinny Golia, Ken Filiano and Alex Cline

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That 'Questions' is very nice.

From the Steeplechase sessions, I also like 'Solo Piano', 'Bebop Bebop Bebop Bebop', 'Paul Plays Carla" and 'If We May'. But there are more and I stll have to discover several of them.

I also have a soft spot for 'Blues for Diane', the awkward encounter with Chet Baker!

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