Paul Bley & Sonny Greenwich: Steeplechase
Paul Bley (piano)
Outside In (Justin Time 69-2)
Recorded: Montreal, Canada, July 8, 1994
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
Paul Bley and Sonny Greenwich finally achieved their goal of recording together, during the week that each played separate concerts at the 1994 Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. "I felt like we were brothers; there was a kinship," said Bley, adding, "We're the same generation and both Canadians." Although Bley has long been associated with the avant-garde, and Greenwich is looked upon as primarily a modal player influenced greatly by John Coltrane, their playing on the riveting Outside In duet CD is surprisingly catholic, thus pronouncing or affirming (depending on your point of view) the breadth and depth of knowledge, and assured facility, each artist possesses over many diverse jazz idioms.
Bley played with Charlie Parker on a Canadian TV show in 1952, so it's instructive to hear how he and Greenwich, a guitarist rarely heard playing bebop, approach Bird's "Steeplechase." Bley plays the melody conventionally as Greenwich joins him at the bridge. Sonny solos first (miked acoustically it seems on this track), his melodic creativity mesmerizing, as is Bley's aggressive comping. Bley then takes the lead, soon introducing somewhat reflective rubato lines propelled by urgent left-hand figures. Short and inventive exchanged passages ensue, with Bley at one point cleverly adapting a motif similar to Monk's "Misterioso." A long free-form joint conversation blooms, replete with asides, rejoinders and mutually compatible flights of fancy. Bley treats the theme differently the second time around, toying with the rhythm, unexpectedly crashing out certain notes. Two individualists at the peak of their powers, and highly recommended.
Reviewer: Scott Albin