Sometimes aesthetic theories are clear (and necessary) only to the artists who invented them. Ornette Coleman has never satisfactorily explained what he means by "harmolodic," but it doesn't matter. The claims that Hal Galper makes for his "Rubato concept" are sometimes abstruse. It doesn't matter. What is clear is that Galper's investigations into the "bending and shaping of tempo" set him free.
Not many artists make stylistic breakthroughs as they approach 70. But in 2006 and 2007, Galper reinvented himself with two stunning albums of brazen piano-trio music, "Agent of Change" and "Furious Rubato." He believes that his new release, "Art-Work," is his "furthest exploration" of the "Rubato concept." The other members of the trio here, Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali, are veterans like Galper, with longer histories of living on the edge.
Galper's recent music occupies the no man's land between freedom and form. Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" and Charlie Parker's "Constellation" are each blown up works at the margins of songs. "Stella by Starlight" appears only at moments, like one bright thread briefly flashing within a plethora of strands. "Autumn Leaves" is a launching pad from which Galper shoots trajectories, while all three players pursue separate ideas about time. "Blue in Green" is best. It somehow remains Miles Davis' pensive existential nocturne even as it floats away from all its underpinnings.
Hal Galper is a late bloomer.