As a drummer, Paul Motian (1931-2011) came to an early fame from his association with Bill Evans. It was the pianist's 1961 Riverside Records trio albums Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard that did the trick, shifting the way of the piano trio into the direction of democracy and intricate interplay, also launching Motian's career as a much coveted sideman, with pianists Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett, saxophonist Charles Lloyd and bassist Charlie Haden--a list that just scratches the surface. He was, until his passing in 2011, a prolific sideman. As a bandleader, however, Motian ...read more
Soon after hearing about Paul Motian's passing (November 22, 2011) I felt the urge to delve (again) into his music. Later on, inspired by a moving writing by Ellery Eskelin (published on his website and reproduced below, by his kind permission), I thought it would have been interesting to collect brief memories from musicians which worked with him during his long career, as well as from those who were deeply influenced by him. So I started my research, contacting as many musicians as possible: many replied with enthusiasm, you will read their recollections here. ...read more
Italian jazz pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, with his melodic romanticism and wondrous sense of harmony, deepened by by his classical training, gets compared often and aptly to the legendary and game-changing pianist Bill Evans (1929-1980). While Pieranunzi's style is more gregarious, and less introspective than that of Evans--and often more abstract--he does share with the late piano icon a penchant for the mode of the interactive trio. In the case of Live at the Village Vanguard, the comparison can be pushed further: the set's drummer, Paul Motian--who passed away in 2011; this is one of his last recording efforts--sat in the ...read more
In a time when leadership roles are being thrust increasingly upon young musicians who may have the chops, the technique and the theory, but not the experience, drummer Paul Motian could be considered a lesson in patience, in waiting for the right time, in holding off for the precise moment of readiness.It's not that Motian couldn't, perhaps, have begun a career leading groups sooner than November, 1972 when, at the age of 41, he entered Butterfly and Sound Ideas Studios in New York City with ECM producer Manfred Eicher. Creating what's since become a classic recording that, from ...read more
The parts of the drum set, viewed individually or as a collective whole, fit neatly under the percussion" heading in the musical instrument world, yet Paul Motian rarely seemed to view them as objects to be struck. Motian found a way to finesse the cymbals, flirt with the drums and free the drum set from the shackles of firm placement and strict time. His painterly approach to playing, which helped to give the Bill Evans Trio its organic identity, set a new standard in jazz, and Motian continued to delight in defying drumming conventions until the day he died, in ...read more
While Paul Motian's music could be regarded as amalgam of the predetermined and the free, that tells only a small part of the story. Similarly, arguing that his drumming was a merging of Kenny Clarke and Sunny Murray is no more helpful, even as it hints at the freedom in his work. But at this moment in time, and of course in light of his recent death in November, 2011, it feels too soon to determine whether or not he was an innovator on par with those two gentlemen. What is undeniable, however, is his good fortune ...read more
There is an edge-of-sleep quality to the recently departed Paul Motian's drumming, and to much of the music he recorded. It's a dreaminess that reflects the spark of subconscious creativity even as the body sits at rest. For the Love of Sarah is a tribute to Motian's music, and from the opening moments it's like stepping into the middle of a story about a dream.It would be difficult not to draw comparisons with another recent Motian tribute album recorded shortly before his passing: guitarist Joel Harrison's String Choir and The Music of Paul Motian (Sunnyside Records, 2011). But ...read more
Join our growing community ofwriters, musicians, visual artists and advocates.