Winter & Winter continues with its JMT Edition series, reissuing in nicely repackaged and remastered form the roughly eighty recordings that Stefan Winter produced during the early to mid-'90s for the defunct JMT label. The appearance of drummer Paul Motian's On Broadway Vol. 3
completes the reissue of Motian's three standards albums. The 24-bit remastering brings added life to an already beautiful-sounding recording. That may not be enough impetus to motivate fans who already own the original JMT releases, but those unfamiliar with these recordings will experience the added benefit of noticeably improved sonics.
Augmenting the core trio of Motian, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, and guitarist Bill Frisell are soprano/alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and bassist Charlie Haden. Curiously, the tracks with the full quintet represent some of Motian's most straightforward and mainstream playing, while the smattering of trio tracks reinforce just how unique and forward-thinking this ensemblewhich recently commemorated its 20th anniversary with I Have the Room Above Herreally is.
Tracks like "How Deep is the Ocean, "Tico Tico, and "Weaver of Dreams find Motian driving the pulse more overtly than usual. While Motian has a long history with bassist Gary Peacock, his years with Haden number nearly as many. And it's invigorating to hear the two of them swing with unabashed authority, Motian sounding more direct than usual and Haden less considered and more inside the groove than he can sometimes be with his own projects. Frisell, too, shines on the quintet tracksgiven his own musical predilections, it's sometimes easy to forget that he can be an imaginative interpreter of the jazz tradition, with a rich tone that is sometimes almost too lush for its own good.
Motian and Lovano make a vibrant pair for their duet version of "The Way You Look Tonight. Lovano has always worked particularly well with Motian (a fact not lost on Lovano, given his recruitment of Motian for his last two Blue Note albums, I'm All for You and Joyous Encounter). Here the two give the tune a more energetic treatment than usual, largely due to Motian playing double-time over Lovano's more languid phrasing.
But the real treats in the programme are the trio pieces. It's here that Motian demonstrates his real strength as a colourist, separating him from his contemporaries. Time becomes elastic as Motian flutters around the kit. Harmonies become broader as Frisell creates sustaining arpeggios that unfold and move gradually and methodically. And as good as Lovano's own projects are, he remains the most compelling with this trio, looking to the past and future at the same time.
While Motian's three On Broadway discs contain some of his most accessible work, there's no question that the stamp he and the group put on this largely well-heeled material is distinctive and unique. Everyone clearly understands the tradition, but nobody is afraid to bend it, either. All three On Broadway titles are essential proof that the Great American Songbook can be treated with respect and vivid imagination.
Personnel: Paul Motian (drums); Lee Konitz (soprano and alto saxophones); Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone); Bill Frisell (guitar); Charlie Haden (bass)