Pianist Paul Bley leaves an amazing amount of work – from his 1953 debut record “Introducing Paul Bley” to his ethereal live solo recording “Play Blue”, recorded in Oslo in 2008, the stylistic diversity of this Montreal-born master is outstanding.
Vanessa Bley, his daughter, released an official obituary that said he “died at home with his family”.
Paul Bley has worked with Charlie Parker, Jackie McLean, and Chet Baker before he moved to Los Angeles in 1957 to work at the Hillcrest Club where his sidemen were, among others, Dave Pike, Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, and Ornette Coleman. After returning to New York, he formed his own trio and also married Carla Bley, with whom he worked for her signature free jazz compositions. They later divorced and in the 60s (his marriage to Carol Gross lasted 43 years), Paul played with Sonny Rollins and Gary Peacock. With Peacock, he formed the Bley-Peacock Synthesizer Show and later in the early 70s, worked with his group Scorpio (with members Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, and Barry Altschul).
His 1967 “Ballads” album and especially “Open, To Love”, his pointillistic, groundbreaking, influential and visionary solo piece on ECM in 1972, rate among the finest piano work ever recorded.
And even though he changed his style in the 1970s to a more lyrical and somewhat peaceful modus, he reamined one of the most creative musicians well into the 1990s and beyond. When he returned to standards material, like on the 1993 Steeplechase album “If We May”, you could hear a much more mature, relaxed, and wiser Paul Bley in search for clarity and the perfect touch.
Private memorial services will be held in Stuart, Florida and Cherry Valley, New York, and, as the official announcement so poignantly states, “wherever you play a Paul Bley record”.