Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian

When Will The Blues Leave

When Will The Blues Leave, recorded 20 years ago in Switzerland, takes its name from an Ornette Coleman composition, a tune that served as a leitmotif throughout Paul Bley’s career.

The pianist’s version of the song here is played ridiculously fast, almost as if he’s rushing to get the melody out of the way so he can start improvising. But the piano cuts out, and it’s just drummer Paul Motian and bassist Gary Peacock charging ahead for a while in a straightforward, swinging manner. Bley jumps back in to play the melody, Motian takes a short solo and the bandleader re-enters with Peacock as the tune begins to move more slowly. Then it’s just Bley, solo, doing his bluesy dissonant-rhapsodic thing for a bit, after which they all come back in for an abrupt, spasmodic ending.

If that seems overly specific, it’s a useful description in that all the songs here basically function in the same unpredictable manner. Throughout, the musicians put forth halting, mysterious music, toying with form and composing on the fly.

Bley died in 2016 and Motian five years before that, this album now functioning as a potent reminder of what made them so important.