Paul Bley / Paul Motian / Gary Peacock

When Will the Blues Leave

BY Nilan PereraPublished May 28, 2019

Mastery is a tricky concept — it has to encompass inspiration, evolution, technique, grace, effortlessness and not a little wisdom, all made into a whole that can be called a work of the same.
This live album, recorded in 1999 by ECM in Lugano, Italy, is one of the clearest examples of mastery that has ever graced the air you hear it in. Paul Bley, Paul Motian and Gary Peacock were compatriots for decades, and when they got back together in 1998 for the Not Two, Not One release, it inspired public performance. We are very lucky to have it recorded then and released now.
The music is classic interplay by these three musicians, where duos, trios and solos seem to occur within one piece, with the ease of a conversation of good friends over wine. Peacock's "ornery virtuosity" ( a term used to describe the late Scott Lafaro's bass playing) sparks vigorously at the beginning of "Moor," egging Motian on; Motian studiously refuses, preferring to play a little hi-hat as Bley insinuates small nudges until he and Motian dive into Peacock's still burning dance.
Are there pieces? Yes. Are they apparent? Sometimes. The stratospheric level of interaction sometimes make even those definitions beside the point. Ornette Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave?" starts with a jagged yet intense reading of the melody, and then launches into a burning hard bop foray by Motian and Peacock until Motian solos and Bley enters, shattering even that energy with an almost sardonic commentary.
Each piece is an example of a stream-of-conscious thought expressed by an instrumental trio with beauty, energy and intelligence. If that isn't mastery, then none exists.

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