On 9 August 2016, pianist Gianni Lenoci, bassist Giovanni Maier, and drummer Bill Elgart came together to perform a live concert celebrating the legendary pianist Paul Bley in a show at the Ritratti Festival at Chiostro di Palazzo San Martino in Monopoli, Italy.
The special performance was dedicated to Paul Bley, a free jazz movement pioneer whose career stretched seven decades. The homage to Bley, who passed earlier this year, was intended to retrace and reconstruct some of the significant pieces of his repertoire.
Paul Bley and Bill Elgart’s relationship began in New England in the mid 1960s and included performing and recording together. Gianni Lenoci, the concert organizer, studied improvisation with Bley in the 1980s.
- Turnaround (O. Coleman)
- Vashkar (P. Bley)
- Lover Man (R. Ramirez, J. Sherman & J. Davis)
- Moor (G. Peacock)
- Monk’s Dream (T. Monk)
- Ida Lupino (C. Bley)
- Law Years (O. Coleman)
- Mr. Joy (A. Peacock)
- You Don’t Know What Love Is (D. Raye & G. De Paul)
A video of the full performance has been uploaded to YouTube, courtesy of Alessandro Lenoci:
Gianni Lenoci and Paul Bley
The musicians include Gianni Lenoci, a distinguished pianist-composer that once studied with Paul Bley in the 1980s. Lenoci also studied improvisation with Mal Waldron and composition with Giacomo Manzoni. He has played solo and in groups with players like Han Bennink, Glenn Ferris, Steve Grossman, Steve Lacy, Joëlle Léandre, Harold Land, Bob Mover, Sakis Papadimitriou, Steve Potts, Enrico Rava, Giancarlo Schiaffini, John Tchicai, and Massimo Urbani.
Besides performing and recording on a regular basis, Lenoci works full-time teaching and heading the New Music Department at Nino Rota Conservatory in Monopoli.
“Plaything,” a composition by Kent Carter from the 2014 album of the same name, is a new interpretation of a piece originally written for Paul Bley that features Gianni Lenoci on piano, Carter on bass, and Bill Elgart on drums:
Bill Elgart and Paul Bley in 1966
Paul Bley, who first rose to fame when he founded the Jazz Workshop in his native Montreal, Canada in the 1950s, and Massachusetts-born Bill Elgart met in New York in the mid 60s. In 1964, bassist Kent Carter invited Elgart to play with Carla Bley’s band at a concert at the Jazz Composer’s Guild in New York City.
A year or two later, Bill Elgart and Paul Bley, Carla’s husband, would first play together. This meeting was set up through bassist Mark Levinson, an old friend of Elgart’s from the late 50s. The three of them jammed at Levinson’s parent’s house in New Haven, Connecticut.
In 1968, Bill Elgart was living on the West Coast, getting ready to return Back East, when the phone rang:
“Paul Bley called out of the blue, asking if I was interested in doing a concert in Seattle with him and bassist Gary Peacock.”
Elgart agreed and a single live performance was recorded in May at the University of Washington, Seattle. This was Bill Elgart’s debut on vinyl.
Paul Bley’s Mr. Joy with Gary Peacock and Bill ElgartLater in 1968 Paul Bley’s Mr. Joy was released on Limelight featuring Bley on piano, Gary Peacock on bass, and Bill Elgart on drums. Seven of the eight tracks were recorded at the concert in Seattle including five Annette Peacock original compositions, Bley’s opener, “Only Lovely,” and the trio’s version of Ornette Coleman’s 1960 track “Ramblin’.” The final track, “Mr. Joy,” was done in the studio the next day as Bill Elgart recalls Paul Bley was not satisfied with the initial recording.
Bill Elgart comments:
“Before the performance, Bley announced an album was being made. It was a strange feeling because after we finished each piece, there was silence, no sound at all from the audience. Finally, the tape player clicked off, and a massive wave of sound filled the packed hall, lasting for several minutes. I’ll never forget that.”
Paul Bley’s title track from Mr. Joy, composed by Annette Peacock, features Gary Peacock on bass and Bill Elgart on drums, is on YouTube:
Paul Bley with Gary Peacock featuring Bill Elgart on Three Cuts
In 1970, Paul Bley with Gary Peacock was released featuring a trio of tracks with Bill Elgart: “Gary,” “Big Foot,” and “Albert’s Love Theme.” All three were recorded at the concert in Seattle in 1968.
Two tracks from the first album by Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, and Bill Elgart, “Mr Joy” and “Kid Dynamite,” were also included on the 1975 release Turning Point. The Improvising Artists Inc. album is currently available in CD and as a download from iTunes USA among other online music retailers.
An incomplete version of “Big Foot” from Paul Bley with Gary Peacock (1970), composed by Bley and featuring Bill Elgart–which is now available as an LP, CD, and digital download, is online:
Gianni Lenoci and Bill Elgart Record Plaything with Kent Carter
Gianni Lenoci and Bill Elgart first played together at a festival at the Bimhuis set up by the owners of the Evil Rabbit Records label (bassist Meinrad Kneer and pianist Albert van Veenendaal). Yet, it was Paul Bley that was the initial connection as Lenoci explains:
I was introduced to Bill’s distinct way of playing years ago when listening to a couple of Paul Bley albums, “Paul Bley with Gary Peacock” and “Mr. Joy,” and one by the great Italian jazz master Franco D’Andrea. I loved Bill’s fantastic interplay and relationship with the piano sound.
In 2014, Gianni Lenoci joined bassist Kent Carter and drummer Bill Elgart to record Plaything for Lithuania’s NoBusiness Records.
The limited edition vinyl release is also available as a digital download from Italy’s Silta Records as well as iTunes.
A video for Gianni Lenoci’s “Spider Diagram,” the fourth track on Lenoci, Kent Carter, and Bill Elgart’s Plaything is on YouTube:
Giovanni Maier on Double Bass
The bass player, fellow Italian Giovanni Maier, was a member of the Transition Jazz Group beginning in 1987 and has played with musicians like Muhal Richard Adams, Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Willem Breuker, Benny Golson, Roscoe Mitchell, Butch Morris, Ernst Reijseger, Yves Robert, Roswell Rudd, Cecil Taylor, and Wolter Wierbos.
He also played in Enrico Rava Formation Electric Five and numerous duo and trio projects. Since 2009, in addition to performing and recording, he is a lecturer at the Giuseppe Tartini Conservatory in Trieste.
In 2012, vocalist Saadet Türköz, bassist Giovanni Maier, and percussionist Zlatko Kaučič released Zarja-Tay for Italy’s Rudi Records, a recording of a concert 24 June 2009 at Marijinega Oznanenja, Crn Grob in Slovenia.
Saadet Türköz, Giovanni Maier, and Zlatko Kaučič’s “Phantasie” is online:
2016 Live Accompaniment to F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu
At the beginning of the year, reedman Hubert Winter, drummer Bill Elgart, bassist Rudi Engel, and guitarist Werner Küspert performed live at a screening of F. W. Murnau’s classic horror film Nosferatu.
The German Expressionist masterpiece was shown at a cinema in the country it debuted in 1922.
An excerpt from Hubert Winter, Bill Elgart, Rudi Engel, and Werner Küspert’s performance is on YouTube:
Bill Elgart Sampler on SoundCloud
A selection of tracks on SoundCloud includes “Plaything” and “Contusion” from Gianni Lenoci, Kent Carter, and Bill Elgart’s Plaything (2014); “Remember Lucia” from Carlo Mombelli and Charlie Mariano’s Happy Sad (1990), with Elgart and Peter O’Mara; the title track from Dancing In A Museum (1992) by Carlo Mombelli’s Abstractions, with Elgart, Mick Goodrick, and Mariano; the title track of Zollsound 4 feat. Lee Konitz’s Open Hearts (2000), with Elgart, Mombelli, and Thomas Zoller; “Puppet Party” from Jan Klare, Jeff Platz, Meinrad Kneer, and Elgart’s Modern Primitive (2011); and the first part of a free improv session with Elgart and Peter Fulda from 2016: