Pianist Paul Bley dies at 83

Paul Bley, considered one of the most most innovative and visionary artists in jazz, and a key figure in the New York free-jazz movement of the 1960s, died at home on January 3rd.

Canadian pianist Paul Bley has died at home aged 83 on January 3rd. He was considered one of the most most innovative and visionary artists in jazz, and was a key figure in the New York free-jazz movement of the 1960s. Bley’s immense career spanned over six decades, playing with many great musicians including Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins and the hugely influential saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Despite this he remains arguably under celebrated compared to contemporaries.

His preference was to play in a trio but was as happy playing solo piano. Bley's daughter Vanessa described him as, “preeminently a pianists’ pianist." Bley was a true innovator always pushing boundaries, always explorative and often humourous. His playing inspired some of today's great players including Keith Jarrett and Fred Hersch. He recognised the talents of cornetist Don Cherry (father of Neneh), Ornette Coleman and bassist Charlie Haden at the very earliest stage in their careers and hired them to play in Los Angeles. He also collaborated with an married two great and interesting free-jazz musicians, firstly pianist Carla Bley (Borg) and later multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Annette Peacock. 

He pioneered the use of the Moog synthesisier and recorded over a hundred albums. In 2008 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, the country’s second highest honour.

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