The defining characteristic of any given jazz musician is frequently his sound. The more control a player has over the nature of that sound, the more likely he is to project a distinctive musical personality.
This 1987 date teams the iconoclastic pianist with guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Paul Motian, and British saxophonist John Surman. While it's easy to argue that, with Manfred Eicher's icy, crystalline production, this was a stock date for both the artists and the label, that argument would be flat wrong. Bley was looking for a new lyricism in his own playing and in his compositions. He was coming from a different place than the large harmonies offered by augmented and suspended chords and writing for piano trios. The other band members – two other extremely lyrical improvisers in Surman and Frisell.
Originally released on white vinyl as a double set in which one disc was an LP while the other was a 12" EP, Live! In the Air Age is an impressive testament to one of prog rock's more interesting results. Bandleader Bill Nelson is better known for his solo work of the '80s and on, but prior to that he was a burgeoning guitar hero with a blazing style and a talented bunch of players backing him up.