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When he tries, it sparkles

Synth Thesis
Synth Thesis
By Paul Bley

Postcards: 1994

This review first appeared in the October 28, 1994 issue of the North County Times.

Paul Bley has long been one of the more explorative pianists on the jazz scene. While his new album for the new Postcards record label continues that explorative bent, it is also uneven, veering from some of his most experimental playing to some of his most boring.

On this outing, Bley seems too willing in the early going to take the easy way out, concentrating on the sweet melodies but playing with little intensity. The result is that for the first half-dozen songs, you have a half-album that's more New Age than jazz. By the seventh song, "Cold Fusion," Blely has hit his stride with intense piano passages and striking electronic sound effects that recall the visionary promise that the New Age style arrived on the scene with. Bley was there for that, and the second half of this record reminds why the New Age label was once so full of artistic potential.