Pianist Paul Bley was touring Scandinavia with a quartet made up of longtime associate Gary Peacock on bass and two brilliant British musicians, drummer Tony Oxley and John Surman on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, when they made this Oslo recording in 1991. Rather than a conventionally organized quartet session, the CD consists of seven largely improvised solos, three duets, and two tracks–the collectively improvised "Interface" and Surman's "Article Four"–with the full quartet. Even more unusual is the frequent emphasis on bass frequencies and slow, even solemn, tempos. Only extraordinary musicians could keep such a format interesting, and these four do, exploring room resonance with almost ceremonial levels of concentration.
Gary Peacock shares front-cover billing with Paul Bley on this 1970 session, but drummer Paul Motian is also present on the first five tracks. (Billy Elgart replaces Motian on the remaining three.) There's a curiously straight-ahead, tempo-driven feel to this short and sweet disc, quite unlike the free aesthetic that Bley, Peacock, and Motian put forward when they returned to ECM as a trio on 1999's Not Two, Not One.
This trio date is dedicated to the music of Annette Peacock, former wife of both pianist Paul Bley and bassist Gary Peacock. While Bley is the undisputed leader on this date (as he has recorded many of these pieces before), it is flügelhorn and trumpet player Franz Koglmann who arranged them in such an exquisite manner. The majority of the pieces included here were originally composed as songs. They were vehicles for expressing the interior, haunted world that Ms. Peacock inhabits and featured her lilting, edgy voice, which slips and slithers through her deceptively simple melodies before erupting into a shriek of ecstasy or pain.
Celebrating his half-century as a Decca artist, as well as his eighty-fifth birthday, Sir Georg Solti here offers a nicely autobiographical collection of three sets of variations: the Peacock Variations of Kodaly representing his Hungarian roots, the lively Paganini Variations of Blacher a recognition of his years as German citizen, and finally a tribute to his unique Britishness in Elgar's Enigma Variations. The disc is also a tribute to the Vienna Philharmonic and Solti's special relationship with that orchestra, with whom he recorded these live performances in the Musikverein last April. You have only to compare this warmly expressive, subtly nuanced, and deeply felt account of the Elgar with Solti's earlier Chicago version of 1974 to appreciate not only the quality of this great Viennese orchestra, but the way in which Solti has mellowed over the last two decades.
Recorded in Munich, ECM's hometown, in 2001, "The Out-of-Towners " finds jazz's most consistently creative piano trio at the peak of its game. Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette captivate the audience at the Munich State Opera. Balancing standards and jazz tunes with Keith Jarrett originals, the trio keeps the music in tight focus.
The two reunite for Insight, with Peacock's name first on the marquee, though it's likely nothing more than the egalitarian nature of this duo that his name is first, since Copland's was the lead on What It Says. It's another set of deeply connected music—a mix of Copland and Peacock originals, free improvisations and well-known but instinctively personal covers.
December Poems consists of four pieces for solo bass and two duets with Jan Garbarek on tenor and soprano sax. More accurately, the opening "Snow Dance" and the closing "Celebrations" are overdubbed bass duos (in part), while "Flower Crystals" pairs Peacock's bass with atmospheric strummed piano, although no piano credit is given. "December Greenwings," one of Peacock's most distinctive compositions, would later reappear on 2001's Amaryllis with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Motian. Despite the sparse and somewhat cold feeling of the record, Peacock's virtuosity and sterling tone are well-served in a solo format, especially so on the stately "A Northern Tale."