354

Paul Motian Trio: At the Village Vanguard

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Paul Motian Trio: At the Village Vanguard
Paul Motian has created a unique place for himself in the annals of jazz drumming by being one of its most implicit players. More colourist than timekeeper, he's developed a style where very little often suggests so much. He's brought his "less is more aesthetic to projects by artists like Bill Evans, Paul Bley, and Marilyn Crispell, but his twenty year-old trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano has exploited his strengths to greatest effect.

Over eleven albums—some augmented with guests—they've evolved their own unique take on jazz and popular standards. But their finest work, where their spacious approach to collective improvisation shines the most, has been on albums weighted most heavily towards Motian's own curious compositional style. Motian's tunes can be as informed by Eastern European folk music as more traditional jazz conventions; he leans towards spare themes and ethereal harmonic backdrops that drive the trio into areas of abstraction. Obscure? Yes, but consistently captivating in their sheer and deceptively simplistic beauty.

With 1995's At the Village Vanguard numbered 80 of 81, Winter & Winter's remastered reissues of the once-extinct JMT catalogue is drawing to a close, and what a lovely note on which to end it. Comprised entirely of Motian originals—with the exception of "You Took the Words Right Out of My Heart —the recording provides an intriguing contrast to the trio's most recent release, I Have the Room Above Her. The more involved production style of Manfred Eicher on the latter, Motian's first album for ECM as a leader in twenty years, sharply contrasts with Stefan Winter's relatively hands-off approach on this reissue from a decade ago. Both are equally fine records which exist on the same musical continuum, but where Eicher leans the group in a singularly ethereal direction, At the Village Vanguard is more stylistically diverse.

That's not to say the trio eschews the kind of textural ambience and harmonic ambiguity that makes I Have the Room Above Her such a warm experience. "Folk Song For Rosie is rife with Frisell's heavily effected guitar, finding Lovano at his most lyrical and Motian creating a wealth of rhythmic ideas underneath, sometimes seemingly at odds with the more languid goings on above. "Yahllah also revolves around an atmospheric, albeit considerably darker motif. Communal intuition rises to a level that transcends obvious affectation—more felt than heard, each player becomes an equal participant in the understated push-and-pull that gives even the lightest passage a delicate tension.

But there's also a sense of levity and playfulness to be found on this live recording. The folksy trill of "The Owl of Cranston provides a foundation for one of Frisell's most subtly witty solos, while "Circle Dance swings in its own unique way.

There's also a greater energy on At the Village Vanguard. But whether steeped in airy ambiguity or a more defined rhythmic pulse, Motian and his trio create an open-ended sound that remains unique and highly influential.

Track Listing

You Took the Words Right Out of My Heart; Abacus; Folk Song for Rosie; The Owl of Cranston; Miles to Wrentham; Yahllah; The Sunflower; Circle Dance.

Personnel

Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone; Bill Frisell: guitar, guitar synthesizer; Paul Motian: drums.

Album information

Title: At the Village Vanguard | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Winter & Winter

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Hurricane Mouse
Hurricane Mouse
The Justin Rothberg Group
Read Human
Human
Shai Maestro
Read Latínball í Búðardal
Latínball í Búðardal
Tómas R. Einarsson
Read Bernstein Reimagined
Bernstein Reimagined
Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra
Read Faune
Faune
Raphaël Pannier Quartet
Read En Casa Limon
En Casa Limon
David Broza
Read Freedom Fables
Freedom Fables
Nubiyan Twist

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.