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From the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s, Giovanni Bonandrini’s Black Saint and Soul Note labels were home to some of the most adventurous musicians in jazz. New owner CAM Jazz is now mining the Bonandrini archives and reissuing the material in a series of budget-priced box sets. This is good news for jazz fans, albeit with the caveat that the original notes are either missing or impossible to read (printed on LP sleeves reduced to CD size) and are not even available online.

These latest reissues bring welcome attention to a pair of outstanding pianists. The Canadian Paul Bley has long been an intrepid and versatile improviser, whose quiet radicalism has influenced numerous pianists from Keith Jarrett to Marilyn Crispell and Geri Allen. These ten discs, recorded between 1983 and 1994, present him in a variety of intimate contexts: there are duo albums with bassist Gary Peacock and percussionists George Cross McDonald and Paul Motian; trio albums with Motian and Charlie Haden, Jimmy Giuffre and Steve Swallow, and Furio di Castri and Tony Oxley; live quartet dates featuring guitarists John Scofield and John Abercrombie; and the beautiful solo set Tango Palace. There is also a ‘bonus’ disc, not listed on the box, with saxophonist Keshavan Maslak.

Bley’s personal version of free jazz, rooted in his stints with Ornette Coleman and Jimmy Giuffre in the late 1950s and early 1960s, discards all the usual points of reference; as critic Jon Balleras has said, Bley ‘thinks in melodic shapes and rhythmic thrusts rather than in key signatures, meters and conventional harmonic cadences’.

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Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing