Supposedly you can't argue about taste. But sometimes an icon of exquisite taste simply presents itself, inescapable and undeniable like an early sunrise on a clear winter day. Such is the case with I Have the Room Above Her
, the new album by the Paul Motian Trio.
So why is that? Because in this superstar-studded project, egos aren't elbowing each other out of the limelight. Quite the contrary: Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell first and foremost use their ears, gridlocked in total concentration. From the first note to the last, this CD is an excursion in the wonders that can happen if people listen to each other before theymaybedo something.
It is uncanny how every project Bill Frisell plays in, seems to turn into Bill Frisell music. Maybe even more so on I Have the Room Above Her
. The lack of a bass and the openness of Paul Motian's drumming provide a full view of his contrapuntal craftiness and excellent intonation. Disharmonic half step intervals sound just as matter-of-factly as the campfire harmonies he is often fond of using. Through his sometimes endless delay effects, he pushes the lower range of his guitar into a somewhat foggy background. His harmonisations, therefore, acquire a depth suggestive of a huge ensemble. Frisell completely exceeds the acknowledged boundaries of his instrument.
Joe Lovano's style, by contrast, is conceptually intertwined with the tenor sax jazz tradition. You can recognize as such the arpeggiatic flurries which are part of the standard jazz sax bag-o-tricks. He brings to the plate a thoughtful application of the full range of historically proven tenor tones, rather than reinventing his instrument completely, as Motian and Frisell have done.
But while Frisell's and Lovano's contributions are equally empathic and substantial, it is Motian who is in charge here. Like a Napoleon overlooking the scene from the nearest hillside, he makes some tactical moves here and small changes there, with quiet confidence and supreme mastery. He steers his adjutants with a steady hand over the battlefield of improvisation through subtle punctuations and sparse linear drumming. The tunes, most of which are by Motian, are often somewhat folksy themes, which are offset by his circling around the pulse. His tempi change constantly in subtle ways, but you never know when or where this will happen. It creates a consciousness which is totally in the moment and steers the listener to an attentive state of mind, which should do wonders for anyone's attention span.
It is not the material, or the contributors exceeding their usual standard of individual excellence, that makes this a fine record. It is the masterful level of concentrated interplay that never wavers, the collective ability to keep improvising without technical inhibitions or a flinch in focus. Exquisite taste might be an absolute thing after all.