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Published on December 1st, 2011 | by Sam


Paul Motian

Paul Motian’s passing is getting to be old news, but I wanted to share my thoughts on him.

Motian possessed the rare quality of bringing his personality in its purest form to all of his projects yet fitting into each in an effortless (or seemingly effortless!) way. His artistic direction inspired so many great jazz artists over his 80 years. When trying to decide on my favorite group of Motian’s, I just got lost. Is it the trio with Frisell, or Bill Evans, or the Keith Jarrett Quartet, or the Electric Bebop Band, or was it his recordings with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. I mean it’s staggering really.

The other thing that strikes me about Paul Motian is that he was a great enabler-if I can borrow the word from the addiction vernacular. His overall devotion to the music happening at that time provided an approach to the drums that was always appropriate and I’m sure inspiring to the musicians around him.

He must have had enormous ears, and I bet heard things that aren’t happening. Side note: I just read an article on dark matter and energy forcing the universe to expand. I think Motian was completely keyed into the ‘dark energy’ in jazz.

Here are a few of my favorite recordings with Paul, in no particular order outside of the order I think of them:

Bill Evans’ Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Maybe one of the greatest recordings ever. The band must have ESP, and enough is written about this performance that I don’t really need to say much more. It’s must have for all musicians.

Lee Konitz Live at the Half Note. Another must-have in my opinion. But listen close, it’s easy to gloss over the burning intensity that Konitz and Marsh have in this recording.

Joe Lovano I’m All For You. On this record Motian tends to play very simply and clear. It seems like he’s really into his sound on this record more than anything else. His cymbals stand out. He almost plays with a choppy feel, very different from his sound on the Bill Evans’ recording.

Paul Motian It Should Have Happened A Long Time Ago. Paul’s trio with Bill Frisell and Lovano never disappoints. This is maybe just my favorite of their catalog right now. Next week it might be a different one. This trio has and will continue to have a very deep impact on jazz. It’s all must-have.

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