|Recording information: Sound On Sound, New York, NY (2003).
Canadian-born pianist Paul Bley has quite the resume--after all, how many musicians have played with Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, and Ornette Coleman? During the intense flowering of the 1960s avant-garde, Bley proved one could play both "free" and with focused lyricism simultaneously. NOTHING TO DECLARE is another entry in Bley's long list of solo recitals, but he's far from coasting on past successes, as this stands with much of his best work. Whereas some of Bley's albums could, understandably, be considered a bit on the moody side, this set has a crisp, bright, sunny-afternoon feel, as if he were commemorating a happy occasion.
Bley still considers his notes carefully, yet he's never tentative or stiff--there's a gentle melodiousness to the proceedings, and there are several subtle tributes to classic, historical jazz piano styles. "Breakdown" has the genial gentleness of Errol Garner, the economy of Thelonious Monk, and the sly, limber tunefulness of Fats Waller woven perfectly into a captivating tapestry. "Blues Waltz" finds Bley getting a little frantic and a lot bluesy, artfully combining elegance and tension. Both intelligent and unassuming, NOTHING TO DECLARE is recommended to Bley fan and newcomer alike.
JazzTimes (p.107) - "Bley remains inspired throughout the program....Bley's fans will love NOTHING TO DECLARE, but it should also be heard by anyone who likes to hear a great improviser push himself."