Mingus pianist has died

The formidable jazz pianist Paul Bley has died, aged 83.

He played with Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus, forming the Jazz Composers Guild that fuelled the so-called jazz revolution in 1960s New York. He was briefly married to Carla Bley, who kept his name.

paul bley

Family statement:

Paul Bley, renowned jazz pianist, died January 3, 2016 at home with his family. Born November 10, 1932 in Montreal, QC, he began music studies at the age of five. At 13, he formed the “Buzzy Bley Band.” At 17, he took over for Oscar Peterson at the Alberta Lounge, invited Charlie Parker to play at the Montreal Jazz Workshop, which he co-founded, made a film with Stan Kenton and then headed to NYC to attend Julliard.

His international career has spanned seven decades. He’s played and recorded with Lester Young, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker, Jimmy Giuffre, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious [sic] and many others. He is considered a master of the trio, but as exemplified by his solo piano albums, Paul Bley is preeminently a pianists’ pianist.

He is survived by his wife of forty three years, Carol Goss, their daughters, Vanessa Bley and Angelica Palmer, grandchildren Felix and Zoletta Palmer, as well as daughter, Solo Peacock. Private memorial services will be held in Stuart, FL, Cherry Valley, NY and wherever you play a Paul Bley record.

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  • True enough, Charles Mingus played as a sideman on Bley’s 1953 album ‘Introducing Paul Bley’, but no one who knows anything about modern jazz would ever describe Bley as a ‘Mingus pianist’ – that’s as absurd as calling Bernstein ‘the Berlin Philharmonic conductor’ on the strength of his one concert with the orchestra.
    Also your assertion that the Jazz Composers Guild ‘fuelled the so-called jazz revolution in 1960s New York’ is a millon miles wide of the mark. More like the group collected together *some* musicians involved in free jazz; but not Coltrane, Ornette and Albert Ayler, generally regarded as the free jazz catalysts.
    And why that snide caveat ‘so-called’ jazz revolution?

  • Paul Bley has made several recordings that are considered classics, whether as a sideman (most notably with Sonny Rollins), in solo or within small groups with such luminaries as Paul Motian, Gary Peacock, Charlie Haden, Steve Swallow and Jimmy Giuffre.

    One could see him as the link between Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. He can also be considered as an alternative free jazz pianist to Cecil Taylor. To quote allmusic: ” his story is inextricably intertwined with the evolution of modern jazz during the second half of the 20th century”. To refer to him as “Mingus pianist” makes as much as sense as referring to James Galway as an ex-member of the Berlin Philharmonic.

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