With the nuance of his keyboard touch and his sense of melodic drama, pianist Paul Bley transformed the night lcub atmosphere of Blues Alley Sunday evening to the hash of a concert hall.
Bley's was the first in a series of Sunday night performances by nationally known artists at the Georgetown club. His appearance was well attended, even though Bley is not well known among Washington area jazz patrons.
The pianist has an ingenius way of stripping a melodic line bare, of isolating it so that we can see it anew. He did this several times the other night but never more successfully than in "How Deep Is the Ocean," the evergreen standard usually interpreted with great bathos but made a model of spare beauty by Bley's suspended rhythms and elongated phrases.
Bley, who in recent years has been identified with some of the electric experimenters in jazz, added color to his performance Sunday night by sometimes plucking the strings inside the piano while simultaneously playing the keyboard.
If there was anything missing, it was a rhythmic core. Too often his solos seems to meander through rich tonal ahd harmonic colors, the notes seeming just splashed on the wall.