At the age of five, Paul Bley gave his first violin recital and two years later, he began studying the piano. Since then Paul Bley has become one of the greatest contributors to modern jazz. Bley might have been considered a child prodigy. He went through numerous classical teachers - including one that had him play, balancing filled water glasses on his wrists. At age 11 he graduated from the McGill Conservatory - having taken on their musical curriculum in addition to his public school education. Jazz was the allure however, and Bley formed a band and played clubs and summer stints in the Laurentian Mountains at age 13.
Four years later he had formed the Montreal Jazz Workshop, brought Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Ben Webster to Montreal and had taken over Oscar Peterson's spot at the Alberta Lounge. He then left for New York City and haunted the clubs while he took the complete course at Julliards School of Music. He sat in with everyone he could and ended up playing for Charles Mingus, who recorded Bley for the first time on his Debut label.