In 1953 he conducted for bassist Charles Mingus on the Charles Mingus and His Orchestra album. That same year Mingus produced the Introducing Paul Bley album with Mingus and drummer Art Blakey. In 1960 Bley recorded on piano with the Charles Mingus Group. In 1958, he 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. In the early 1960s he was part of the Jimmy Giuffre 3, with Giuffre on clarinet, and bassist Steve Swallow. The quiet understatement of this music made it possible to overlook its degree of innovation, as well as its repertoire introducing compositions by his ex-wife, pianist and organist Carla Bley.
The group's music moved towards free improvisation based on close empathy. 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. 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. Bley had long been interested in expanding the palette of his music using unconventional sounds (such as playing directly on the piano-strings). It was therefore consistent that he took an interest in new electronic possibilities appearing in the late 1960s. 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 Annette Peacock, who had written much of Bley's personal repertoire since 1964, was followed by her playing on the recordings Dual Unity (released under the name "Annette & Paul Bley") and Improvisie, a French release of two extended improvisiational tracks with the trio of Paul on melodic electric piano and modulated synthesizer supporting Annette Peacock's remarkable tonal experiments singing through what sounds to be a Maestro (Tom Oberheim designed) Ring Modulator, and percussion by Dutch free jazz drummer Han Bennink, who had also appeared on part of Dual Unity. Subsequently Bley returned to a predominant focus on the piano itself. During the 1970s, Bley, in partnership with videographer Carol Goss, was responsible for an important multi-media initiative, Improvising Artists, which issued LPs and videos documenting the solo piano recordings by Sun Ra and other works of free jazz with Giuffre, Lee Konitz, Gary Peacock, Lester Bowie, John Gilmore, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Steve Lacy and others. Bley and Goss are credited in a Billboard Magazine cover story with the first "music video" as a result of the recorded and live performance collaborations they produced with jazz musicians and video artists. Bley was featured in the 1981 documentary film Imagine the Sound, in which he performs and discusses the history of his music. In the 1990s, Bley joined the faculty of the New England Music Conservatory, however he no longer teaches there. Musicians of note Satoko Fujii and Yitzhak Yedid have studied with Bley at NEC. Bley continued to tour internationally and record prodigiously, with well over a hundred CDs released. In 1999 his autobiography, Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz, was published.
In 2003 Time Will Tell: Conversations with Paul Bley was published. In 2004 Paul Bley: la logica del caso (Paul Bley: The Logic of Chance) was published in Italian. In 2008, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. Discography As leader/co-leader Year recordedTitle Label Personnel/Notes 1953Introducing Paul BleyDebutCharles Mingus, Art Blakey 1954Paul BleyEmArcyPercy Heath/Peter Ind, Al Levitt 1958Solemn MeditationGNPDave Pike, Charlie Haden, Lennie McBrowne 1958 released 1976Live at the Hilcrest Club 1958Inner CityOrnette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins 1958 released 1977Coleman Classics Volume 1Improvising ArtistsOrnette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins 1962–63Footloose!SavoySteve Swallow, Pete LaRoca Re-released with additional tracks as Floater and Syndrome 1964BarrageESP-DiskDewey Johnson, Marshall Allen, Eddie Gómez, Milford Graves 1965TouchingFontanaKent Carter, Barry Altschul 1965CloserESP-DiskSteve Swallow, Barry Altschul 1966Ramblin'BYG ActuelMark Levinson, Barry Altschul 1966BloodFontanaMark Levinson, Barry Altschul 1966In Haarlem - BloodPolydorMark Levinson, Barry Altschul 1967 released 1971BalladsECMMark Levinson/Gary Peacock, Barry Altschul 1967 released 1976VirtuosiImprovising ArtistsGary Peacock, Barry Altschul 1963–68 released 1970Paul Bley with Gary PeacockECMGary Peacock, Paul Motian/Billy Elgart 1964–68 released 1975Turning PointImprovising ArtistsJohn Gilmore, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian/Billy Elgart 1968Mr. JoyLimelight RecordsGary Peacock, Billy Elgart 1969Revenge: The Bigger the Love the Greater the HatePolydorAnnette Peacock and various others 1970The Paul Bley Synthesizer ShowMilestoneDick Youngstein/Glen Moore/Frank Tusa, Steve Hass/Bobby Moses 1971ImprovisieAmericaAnnette Peacock, Han Bennink 1971Dual UnityFreedomAnnette Peacock, Mario Pavone, Lawrence Cook/Han Bennink 1972Open, to LoveECMSolo piano 1972Paul Bley & ScorpioMilestoneDave Holland, Barry Altschul 1973Paul Bley/NHØPSteepleChaseNiels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen 1974JacoImprovising ArtistsPat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Bruce Ditmas 1974Alone, AgainImprovising ArtistsSolo piano 1974Quiet SongImprovising ArtistsJimmy Giuffre, Bill Connors 1976Japan SuiteImprovising ArtistsGary Peacock, Barry Altschul 1977PyramidImprovising ArtistsLee Konitz, Bill Connors 1977AxisImprovising ArtistsSolo piano 1983TearsOwlSolo piano 1983Tango PalaceSoul NoteSolo piano 1983SonorSoul NoteGeorge Cross McDonald 1985QuestionsSteepleChaseJesper Lundgaard, Aage Tanggaard 1985HotSoul NoteJohn Scofield, Steve Swallow, Barry Altschul 1985My StandardSteepleChaseJesper Lundgaard, Aage Tanggaard 1986FragmentsECMJohn Surman, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian 1986Paul Bley & Jesper Lundgaard LiveSteepleChaseJesper Lundgaard 1986Paul Bley & Jesper Lundgaard Live AgainSteepleChaseJesper Lundgaard 1987Indian SummerSteepleChaseRon McClure, Barry Altschul 1987NotesSoul NotePaul Motian 1987The Paul Bley QuartetECMJohn Surman, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian 1987SoloJustin TimeSolo piano 1988Live at Sweet BasilSoul NoteJohn Abercrombie, Red Mitchell, Barry Altschul 1988Solo PianoSteepleChaseSolo piano 1988The Nearness of YouSteepleChaseRon McClure, Billy Hart 1989Blues for RedRedSolo piano 1989RejoicingSteepleChaseMichal Urbaniak, Ron McClure, Barry Altschul 1989The Life of a Trio: SaturdayOwlJimmy Guiffre, Steve Swallow 1989The Life of a Trio: SundayOwlJimmy Guiffre, Steve Swallow 1989PartnersOwlGary Peacock 1989BeBopBeBopBeBopBeBopSteepleChaseBob Cranshaw, Keith Copeland 1990MemoirsSoul NoteCharlie Haden, Paul Motian 1990 released 199512 (+6) In a RowHat HutHans Koch, Franz Koglmann 1991Changing HandsJustin TimeSolo piano 1991LyricsSplasc(H)Tiziana Ghiglioni 1991In the Evenings Out ThereECMJohn Surman, Gary Peacock, Tony Oxley 1991Paul Plays CarlaSteepleChaseMarc Johnson, Jeff Williams 1992MindsetSoul NoteGary Peacock 1992AnnetteHat HutFranz Koglmann, Gary Peacock 1992Caravan SuiteSteepleChaseSolo piano 1992Homage to CarlaOwlSolo piano 1992Paul Bley at Copenhagen Jazz HouseSteepleChaseSolo piano 1993Zen PalaceTransheartSteve Swallow, Paul Motian 1993Hands OnTransheartSolo piano 1993If We MaySteepleChaseJay Anderson, Adam Nussbaum 1993Sweet TimeJustin TimeSolo piano 1993Double TimeJustin TimeJane Bunnett 1993Know TimeJustin TimeHerbie Spanier, Geordie McDonald 1993Synth ThesisPostcardsSolo piano and synthesizer 1994Time Will TellECMEvan Parker, Barre Phillips 1994 released 1998ChaosSoul NoteFurio Di Castri, Tony Oxley 1994Modern ChantVenusDavid Eyges, Bruce Ditmas 1994Outside InJustin TimeSonny Greenwich 1994Emerald BlueVenusDavid Eyges, Bruce Ditmas 1994SpeachlessSteepleChaseRich Perry, Jay Anderson, Victor Lewis 1994Reality CheckSteepleChaseRich Perry, Jay Anderson, Victor Lewis 1996 released 2000Sankt GeroldECMEvan Parker, Barre Phillips 1997Notes on OrnetteSteepleChaseJay Anderson, Jeff Hirshfield 1998Not Two, Not OneECMGary Peacock, Paul Motian 2000BasicsJustin TimeSolo piano 2001 released 2007Solo in MondseeECMSolo piano 2003Nothing to DeclareJustin TimeSolo piano 2007About TimeJustin TimeSolo piano 2008 released 2014Play Blue: Oslo ConcertECMSolo piano As sideman With Don Ellis 1961: Out of Nowhere (Candid, 1988) 1962: Essence (Pacific Jazz) With Jimmy Giuffre and Steve Swallow 1961: The Jimmy Giuffre 3 – Fusion (Verve) 1961: The Jimmy Giuffre 3 – Thesis (Verve; remixed re-release by ECM together with Fusion, 1992) 1961: Jimmy Giuffre Trio Live in Europe 1961 (Raretone, 1984) 1961: Emphasis, Stuttgart 1961 (hatART, 1993) 1961: Flight, Bremen 1961 (hatART, 1993) 1962: Free Fall (Columbia) 1989: The Life of a Trio (2 volumes, Owl) 1992: Fly Away Little Bird (Owl) 1993: Conversations with a Goose (Soul Note, 1996) With Sonny Rollins 1963: Sonny Meets Hawk! (RCA Victor) 1963: Tokyo 1963 (Rare Live Recordings) With Marion Brown 1974: Sweet Earth Flying (Impulse!) With Charlie Haden 1989: The Montreal Tapes: with Paul Bley and Paul Motian (Verve) With Lee Konitz 1997: Out of Nowhere (SteepleChase) With John Surman 1991: Adventure Playground (ECM) With Andreas Willers 2001: In the North (Between the Lines) Read more on Last.fm.
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