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Barrage by Paul Bley Quintet

This 2008 reissue of pianist Paul Bley’s 1964 studio session for the recently resurrected ESP-DISK record label, signifies one of many gems unearthed from the past to parallel the label’s new and largely exciting product. Here, Bley leads a superb quintet, featuring the compositions of his wife at the time, Carla Bley. Essentially, the outing projects an unfettered and prismatic conveyance of free-form expressionism.

With torrid parts by Sun Ra Arkestra icon and alto sax great Marshall Allen paired with one-time John Coltrane group trumpeter Dewey Johnson, the band renders a frenetic hustle and bustle type panorama. In effect, Bley resides in the middle as flow-master and accelerator via his clever harmonic concepts and comping duties. As the free-form component comes with numerous contrasts and contrapuntal maneuvers.

Johnson’s raspy and high-impact trumpet lines on "Around Again," launch the requisite fireworks that morph into an up-tempo and abstract ballad. Here, drumming great Milford Graves uses his brushes to inject an asymmetrical pulse into the grand schema. Then Allen belts out extended single notes and plaintive cries while engaging in playful discourses with the musicians. With soaring horns and Bley’s interweaving clusters, the quintet often delves into free-bop territory. Yet one of the more cunning aspects, pertain to bassist Eddie Gomez’ isolated solo spots, where the quintet acts as though time stood still by fading out and letting the artist handle matters on his own.

The final track "Barrage," is just that, as Bley goes on a tear atop Graves’ ferocious pulse. Hence, a rather fitting finale to the band’s penetrating methodology. In sum, this reissue is essential listening for Bley aficionado’s and anyone else who would fancy the idea of listening to classic mid-‘60s free-jazz at it’s very finest.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Paul Bley Quintet
  • CD Title: Barrage
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Reissue Original Release: 1965
  • Record Label: ESP-DISK
  • Musicians: Paul Bley (piano), Dewey Johnson (trumpet), Marshall Allen (alto sax), Eddie Gomez (bass), Milford Graves (percussion)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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