Amazon.com Widgets

The Veiled Meanings of Paul Motian

The Veiled Meanings of Paul Motian
By Published: | 4,032 views
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
Kenny Clarke
Kenny Clarke
1914 - 1985
drums
and Sunny Murray
Sunny Murray
Sunny Murray
b.1937
drums
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 in getting to be a bandleader, as a pretty extensive discography on the ECM and Black Saint/Soul Note labels highlight. Through these titles we're able to gauge the level of impressionism that was a mark of both his playing and his composing. Fellow drummer Jeff Cosgrove has obviously drunk deep of these bodies of work if For the Love of Sarah (Self Produced, 2011), by his Motian Sickness: The Music of Paul Motian ensemble is anything to go by. Motian's music, as realized through a quartet completed by violist Mat Maneri
Mat Maneri
Mat Maneri
b.1969
viola
, mandolinist Jamie Masefield and bassist John Hébert, retains the slyly referential qualities that were an integral part of Motithe late drummer's musical personality, but the degree of originality is still sufficient to keep the notion of mere repertory at bay.

Indeed it could be argued that in recasting the music for drums and strings exclusively, the group mimics Motian only in the degree to which it's willing to take risks, which has the practical effect of imbuing the music with an unusual level of profundity. "Mumbo Jumbo," cut by Motian for ECM in 2006 on Garden of Eden, is marked by disrupted momentum, with no small element generated by the leader himself; it is, however, still an exercise in collective improvisation, with saxophonists Chris Cheek
Chris Cheek
Chris Cheek
b.1968
saxophone
and Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby

sax, tenor
contributing in significantly. By comparison, the version on Cosgrove's album is airier, more gracious and less galumphing—due, in no small part, to Masefield's performance, despite playing an instrument that does not necessarily or immediately spring to mind, given the context. What's also noteworthy in this performance is that Cosgrove himself is a colorist on par with Motian.

As a whole, Cosgrove's quartet is appreciative of the implications of Motian's music—which, in essence, is one of those oeuvres where the surface amounts to considerably less than half of the overall content. Over thirty years ago, Motian had the foresight to employ underrated—and undervalued—saxophonist Charles Brackeen on 1978's Dance and 1979's Le Voyage (both on ECM), documenting the resultant creative tension between the two men. Cosgrove's group generates a different kind of tension, albeit one equally appreciative of the possibilities opened up by Motian the composer.

Because of this, their effort on record has the effect of opening things out even further, and in a way that lessens the importance of discussions of the free. It will always be a truism about Motian's music that the primacy of the moment was paramount and Motian Sickness highlights this.

Photo Credit

Bethany Bandera

comments powered by Disqus
Search
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Mark Elf

Mark Elf

About | Enter

Stefano Bollani

Stefano Bollani

About | Enter

Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy

About | Enter

Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

About | Enter

Bandzoogle: GET STARTED TODAY - FREE TRIAL

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

Article Search