143

Paul Motian Band: Garden Of Eden

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
On Garden Of Eden, Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band shortens its name and lengthens its stride to present a new artistic agenda. Recalibrations of the bop and hard bop repertoires stay on the bill, but only in a supporting role: the main event now is original material, most of it composed by Motian. (Nine of the fourteen tracks are originals, seven of them written by Motian, plus one each from saxophonist Chris Cheek and guitarist Steve Cardenas.)

It's an occasion, simultaneously, for celebration and a little regret. Regret because the band's trademark reinventions of '40s and '50s standards are high-water masterpieces of modern music, and a CD chock full of them would still leave an appetite for more. On Garden Of Eden contemporary Oliver Twists will have to be satisfied with Mingus' "Pithecanthropus Erectus" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," a combination twelve-minute overture and farewell, plus Monk's "Evidence" (three and a half minutes) and Parker's "Cheryl" (two minutes flat) as a very brief finale.

The two Mingus tracks are pure bliss, stone downloads of the year, with Motian daring to replace the composer's signature torment with serene, Zen-like acceptance. They are played with such delicacy and understatement—and despite the multiplicity of guitars (three) and saxophones (two), such spaciousness—that the listener is forced to lean mentally forward to appreciate them. That effort is well rewarded. "Pitchecanthropus Erectus" here suggests that man's fall will come with a whimper rather than a bang, but its brooding intensity has never sounded more dangerous. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" brilliantly replaces the original's bravura tenor saxophone lament with softly voiced, collective remembrance.

Bittersweet lyricism also shapes the nine originals which make up the centrepiece of the album and which are to be celebrated as well, though somewhat less rapturously. As composers, Motian, Cheek and Cardenas are complementary to the point of being practically indistinguishable, and, with the exception of Motian's perkily kwela-esque "Mesmer," their shared aesthetic inhabits the same tentative and wraithlike landscape as Tomasz Stanko's Litania, in particular that album's opening "Svantetic." There are worse things to be reminded of.

Most of these tunes are gentle collective meditations lasting about three and a half minutes, which the band don't so much sink their teeth into as nibble at, much as you would a dish of amuse bouches. Stylish and imaginative though the new music is, you're left with a nagging feeling that perhaps something is being fixed here that ain't broke to start with, and that the real meat and potatoes lie elsewhere.

Track Listing

Pithecanthropus Erectus; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Etude; Mesmer; Mumbo Jumbo; Desert Dream; Balata; Bill; Endless; Prelude 2 Narcissus; Garden of Eden; Manhattan Melodrama; Evidence; Cheryl.

Personnel

Chris Cheek: saxophones; Tony Malaby: saxophones; Jakob Bro: guitars; Ben Monder: guitars; Steve Cardenas: guitars; Jerome Harris: bass; Paul Motian: drums.

Album information

Title: Garden of Eden | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.


MUSICSTACK

Rare vinyl LPs and CDs from over 1,000 independent sellers

AMAZON

CDs, Vinyl, Blu-Ray DVDS, Prime membership, Alexa, SONOS and more

HD TRACKS

Specializing in high resolution and CD-quality downloads

CD UNIVERSE

Specializing in music, movies and video games

REVERB

Marketplace for new, used, and vintage instruments and gear

More

Read Bluebeard
Bluebeard
Yuri Honing Acoustic Quartet
Read Battle Lines
Battle Lines
Steve Fidyk
Read Calling
Calling
Anansi Trio
Read That Time
That Time
London Jazz Composers Orchestra
Read Day By Day
Day By Day
Cory Weeds
Read Silver Dollar
Silver Dollar
Jason Stein
Read Four Questions
Four Questions
Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra