Sacks/Opsvik/Maneri/Motian: Two Miles A Day (2007)
In early 2005, Michigan-born pianist Jacob Sacks and Norwegian bassist Eivind Opsvik discussed who, among the living legends of jazz they would most like to play with. They agreed unanimouslydrummer Paul Motian. Plans were made, fellow Brooklyn resident violist Mat Maneri was recruited to join them, and Two Miles a Day was born.
With limited studio time and Motian's preference for spontaneous improvising, principle writers Sacks and Opsvik chose skeletal pieces of an elastic nature to work with, rather than intricate, chart-driven compositions. Masterful tunesmiths with a penchant for plangent melodies, their writing enriches the session with a harmonically assured palette. The tunes ripple with emotional resonance, conveyed with both empathetic finesse and vivacious zeal.
With startling brio, the album opens with the slashing angularity and fervid tenacity of "Ha!," then radically switches gears for the austere "As We Know It," a pensive neo-classical ballad. Vacillating between mellifluous statements, terse explorations and agitated rhythms, the quartet shifts gracefully from one mood to the next.
Navigating labyrinthine structures studded with jagged angles and jittery rhythms, they enthusiastically tackle the modulating rhythmic cadences of the jaunty "Playing With Blocks" and spiky "Bridge and Tunnel" with tart expressionism.
Invoking a Monkish streak, Sacks' buoyant "Funny Shoes" features Motian at his finest, interjecting spry percussive commentary that belies his age. Another Sacks original, "Simple Song," knits a mercurial melody to a relaxed pulse that borrows Monk's quirky sensibility without resorting to imitation.
Demonstrating proficiency beyond his years, Opsvik's graceful "Evening Kites" radiates with euphonious luster, showcasing Maneri's supple viola as a model of knowing restraint. The pastoral tenderness of "Twelve Days" and the sunny trio feature, "Savile Row" close the album on a poetic note.
Paul Motian is one of the few living jazz legends to continue using his own groups as a training ground for future talent. This date returns the favor, inviting the master to play with up and coming artists in a collaborative setting filled with intuitive interplay. A winning document of a one-off session, Two Miles a Day presents multi-generational jazz at its most inspired.
Track Listing: Ha!; As We Know It; Playing With Blocks; Two Miles A Day; Evening Kites; Bridge And Tunnel; Funny Shoes; Gray Plaid; Simple Song; Twelve Days; Savile Row.
Personnel: Jacob Sacks: piano; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Mat Maneri: viola and violin; Paul Motian: drums.