In 1953, Canadian pianist Paul Bley made his leadership debut in a trio with Charles Mingus and Art Blakey. In the late '50s and early '60s, he went on to make connections with two important groups: the first of Ornette Coleman's famous quartets and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre's influential chamber jazz trio. Despite such associations, Bley has always remained an individual musically. His daring, cerebral style finds its own niche, falling somewhere between the lush sensitivity of Bill Evans and the denser, more challenging approach of Cecil Taylor. His solo work -- as heard on the ECM label landmark Open, to Love (1972) among many others -- tends toward the stark, melancholy side of things, while his small combo efforts are notable for their sensitive, almost conversational interplay. He continues to record prolifically, interchanging solo improvisations, duets and Bop-ish trio dates with more aggressively avant-garde albums.