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Flitting like drunken fireflies, luminescent tones flutter out of a saxophone, tracing capricious, spasmodic lines. In the background, washes of cymbals and softly-brushed snare sweeps weave discretely fine-spun rhythms around a shy piano that is busy rocking drowsy chords to sleep. Fragmented, almost to the point of abstraction, the music nevertheless expands, ebb and flowing placidly like sea waves licking at a sandy beach, pulse-less yet its life beating strong.
If a modernist spin on the old cubist aesthetic appears to be the inspiration behind the cover artwork of Lost In A Dream, then the analogy may also very well apply to describe its aforementioned opening track. A floating yet structured piece, "Mode VI"'s swerving theme and indented cadence recalls Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso's pictorial experiments with multiple and mixed perspectives. Characterizing the pair's innovative brushwork, authors Sam Hunter and John Jacobus point out, in Modern Art (Prentice Hall, 1992), "No matter how fragmentary and remote, references to the object are still discernible." Interestingly, their phrase conveniently sums up the music conjured by deconstructionist drummer Paul Motian
during this live set at the Village Vanguard in February, 2009.
"Casino" encapsulates the spirit and atmosphere instilled by the trio throughout the recording. Gently guided by Moran's soft, velvety pedaling, Motian's rubato composition shares with the sleepy opener the same oneiric mood evoked in the metaphor of the album title's. Similarly shrouded in reverie, the slow, dozy pace of the beautiful "Birdsong" also fits the program's Morphean theme admirably well but with a straighter, more conventional conduct. As such, it is likely to become a fan favorite for its touching melancholy and charming lyricism.
As Motian has been found repeating himself from project to project with no real surprises, it is saxophonist extraordinaire Chris Potter who comes out sounding the freshest. In fact, his mere presence on this type of date speaks volume about his versatility and keen musicianship. Be it in meandering, dreamy constructs like "Blue Midnight" and "Casino," or on the set's sole energetic piece ("Ten"), his melodic inventiveness, perfect phrasing and rhythmic command makes this release all the more delightful.
Track Listing: Mode VI; Casino; Lost In A Dream; Blue Midnight; Be Careful It's My Heart; Birdsong; Ten; Drum Music; Abacus; Cathedral Song.
Personnel: Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Jason Moran: piano; Paul Motian: drums.