Paul Plimley

Everything in Stages

SGL 1503-2

**** “Plimley has quietly developed a world-class technique that’s equal parts feisty extraversion and playful fantasy…What other pianist do you know can leap from lush Debussy chords to slithery Xenakis glisses, Cecil Taylor clusters to Jimmy Yancey ostinatos, with such aplomb? This all-original program balances ballads of concise and glowing sentiment with quick-silver melodies twisting through unusual contours; everything is focused, proportioned and consistently imaginative.”

—Art Lange, Pulse!


In recent years, Vancouver’s Paul Plimley has been recognized as a significant voice in creative music, but until now his solo work has not been available on record. Here, playing inside, outside, and all around a Bösendorfer grand, he reveals an idiosyncratic but powerful vision of the piano-as-orchestra. Paying tribute to his pianistic mentors (among them Ellington, Powell, Monk, Ibrahim and Taylor), Plimley synthesizes jazz traditions, classical influences, and elements of new music (Zappa, Steve Reich) into a number of stylistic approaches which he combines and varies throughout a diverse program of original compositions and improvisations. Stride-like or blues-tinged passages merge into free playing; percussive or balladic soundscapes (some of them built-up through overdubbing) give way to singular meditations that lead wherever the inspiration of the moment takes them. Brilliance is brushed by moments of sly comedy, and deep feeling emerges from compelling musical structures. The recording does justice to the nuances of Plimley’s playing. A two-mike set-up was taped in 20-bit digital without reverb or other processing.

As the project took shape, Songlines teamed up with Vancouver’s DNA Multimedia to give the record a further dimension. Thus, Everything in Stages became the first enhanced CD (that we know of) to document the new jazz in this interactive medium. The CD-ROM portion, which is Blue Book standard (CD Extra) and Mac/Windows 95 compatible, features program notes on all the tunes, sound samples, a discography, and an interactive composition which demonstrates a different side of Plimley’s writing, providing a starting point for musicians who would like to engage with his music directly. But beyond the content per se, DNA’s graphic designer, Gregory Ronczewski, has invented a surprising and elegant audio-visual playground that reflects facets of Paul’s art in a different light. [Update: CD-ROM program will not play on Intel-based computers.]

Plimley also plays vibes, marimba and synths and has been active as a composer and improvisor for the past 20 years. Apart from his duo with bassist Lisle Ellis (their Ornette Coleman program, Kaleidoscopes, is on hatART) and the trio he co-leads with Ellis and Joe McPhee (a recent Max Roach tribute, Sweet Freedom — Now What?, also on hatART), he has led an octet, and is a founding member of the New Orchestra Workshop, a 12-piece ensemble for which he also composes. He has developed musical collaborations with Barry Guy, and in trios with Ellis and drummers Andrew Cyrille, Greg Bendian, and Donald Robinson (CDs on Maya, 9 Winds, Victo, and Music and Arts). He has also performed with Cecil Taylor, Derek Bailey, Han Bennink, Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, George Lewis, Glenn Spearman, Larry Ochs, Henry Kaiser, John Oswald, Mark Dresser, Joey Baron, Kenny Wheeler and many others. He received the 1995 Freddie Stone award for innovation and integrity in music.


Best of 1996, FI, The Globe and Mail, and The Georgia Straight

“Dazzling piano work…reveals many facets: the attention to silences, angles and spare melodies that recalls Paul Bley; the unusual tonal clusters, massive block chords, and shattering explosions reflecting the influence of Cecil Taylor; and spontaneous rhythmic inventions that are surprising in their mercurial shifts…” — Derk Richardson, Piano & Keyboard

“Among the most exciting pianists of his generation.” — Art Lange, FI

****1/2 “An imaginatively sequenced, wonderfully dynamic program. — John Corbett, Down Beat

“Until a few years ago, the wonders of his unique approach were barely known to the rest of the world. Then a flurry of activity put him in the ear of all attentive jazz fans…Everything in Stages is a brilliantly recorded compendium of his own music.” — John Corbett, The Reader

***1/2 “Plimley continues to create a formidable body of work…Everything in Stages is another contrast: 17 pieces, many very brief episodes, many examining one, often minute aspect of the piano — technique, vocabulary, structure. Plimley makes one think about the whole nature of the instrument here, its physicality and resonances, and although it can be tough going it’s many times more absorbing than the typical piano record.” — Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (4th Edition)

“Plimley is an imposing talent, and witty and pointed in his writing. What impresses about these solo pieces is the joyous clarity of the playing, which strays enormously stylistically without losing a basic sense of focus. The compositions are ingenious things, which Plimley attacks with improvisational vigour. They also come from a space where the ‘influences’ washing about in the background go from Bach to Beefheart, but somehow remain within a kind of over-arching, jazz-derived framework.” — Will Montgomery, The Wire

“Plimley is an original. He has found an appealing style that is intense, constantly interesting, and sometimes humorous…The pieces are gems of logic and structure.” — Russ Summers, Option

“For more than a decade Plimley has been steadily developing an international reputation as one of Canada’s finest players/composers/bandleaders in progressive jazz…He approaches the piano like a true percussive instrument, setting musical challenges to his stream of consciousness a la Cecil Taylor, or noting John Cage’s lessons on silence and the true quality of a single chord.” — Roger Levesque, Edmonton Journal

“His first solos recording, and a particularly graceful one at that…Plimley improvises with a twinkle in his eye and something very like a song in his heart. His abstractions are relatively gentle and rather quizzical. The avant-garde, if that’s what it is, should always be so friendly.” — Mark Miller, Saturday Night

“Plimley’s series of recordings on hat art and Music and Arts with colleague Lisle Ellis have been remarkable for stretching the boundaries of improvisation/composition. With his first solo album, he explores the structural attributes of the piano and makes an intensely personal musical statement…Technically this is a very strong CD. Plimley’s virtuosity is demonstrated by excellent reproduction of the piano, cleanly articulated notes and runs, and compositional wealth. Plimley is known for his avant garde expressionism, yet this solo CD brings to the foreground his innate and forceful use of melody, something that may have been previously overshadowed by his improvisational skills.” — Laurence M. Svirchev, 5/4

“Plimley is a player so individualistic and multi-faceted that he seems a natural heir to that other overlooked Canadian innovator, Paul Bley. Their music shares a sense of surprise and idiosyncratic use of time. If anything, Everything in Stages shows Plimley to have an even richer stylistic palette than Bley. He incorporates dense chordal clusters, bluesy stride playing and a sly sense of humor in a program of remarkable variety and depth. — James Hale, Ottawa Citizen

“Talk about deep: check out pianist Paul Plimley, whose energy-filled playing has perked more than a few ears these past few years. His solo piano debut is filled with as much sonic disjunction as a good Henry Cowell tone cluster. It is as engaged as Cecil Taylor’s mammoth, full-bodied embrace of the ivories. Melodies spring loose from the keys…Plimley’s gait is certain, finding bursts of speed and dissonance aplenty without ever taking on the mantle of energy jazz. Piled chords and plunked punctuations mark much of the musical motion. This is first-order improvisation of unsparing ingenuity and emotive power.” — Andy Bartlett, Earshot Jazz

“The 17 works here are Plimley’s further excursions into various degrees of piano melody angles, tempos and sonor dynamics. As oddly contoured as they seem, they beckon with a subtle attractiveness their brevity encourages.” — Ron Welburn, Jazz Times

“Not only does Plimley come across as a highly creative pianist, but the album is beautifully recorded. Conscious space is captured, as is a feeling of motion and architecture.” — Mark Corroto, SoS Jazz

creative jazz
  1. Your Head is Now a Drum
  2. Shards From a Future Melancholy
  3. Influx
  4. Waitress Laughter
  5. Kicks 'n Boogie
  6. Select Magical Skyfall
  7. Digital Bracelets
  8. Castanets for Pinocchio
  9. Touch of Orisas
  10. Evolution of Adjacent Moments
  11. What Time is It
  12. And the Answer is…
  13. Parachute Four
  14. Where When is What
  15. You and Her
  16. Sirens for Ulysses
  17. Phase Two, Further in the Drum
  • Paul Plimely, piano, percussion, voice, conch
  • All compositions/improvisations by Paul Plimley
  • 20 bit recording
  • Release Date
    March 04, 1996