Paul Motian celebrated his diamond (75th) birthday in March. The drummer with bigger ears than creds didn't get to that august age by overplaying his kit. He has spun out drum lines as brilliant as diamonds and fine as platinum wire with many pianists and is enjoying a resurgence as ur-leader with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano. He plays just a little less than a little too much, leaps synapses rather than kicks ass. Here his low-key animation and glinting brushwork foment cohesive interplay and his lucid textures and free rhythmic space help lift two introspective dates from brooding obscurantism.
Martin Speake's alto sax floats over his wistful originals on Change of Heart with little overt effect. He employs light attack like Mark Turner and bright tone á la Paul Desmond. The opening "Healing Power of Intimacy has much quiet motion under a line quoting "Lone Prairie . Most tracks are quietly motile, but "Barefaced Thieves simmers aplenty, propelled by Motian's slicing (not slashing) cymbals and abrupt (never brusque) rolls. Cymbals underline pianist Bobo Stenson's stolidly chordal introduction to the morose "Buried Somewhere ; infrequent yet intuitively timed accents hit precisely at Speake's climaxes as Adam Vinatieri field goals; and a martial snare drum pattern takes it out. In a Konitz/Tristano unison linear vein, "Venn finds Motian's light stickwork amiably propulsive. He keeps ideas churning behind dead-slow dirges "Three Hours and "In Code .
Motian and veteran bass-mate Gary Peacock give life lessons in looseness to folksy Vancouver guitarist Gordon Grdina on Think Like the Waves. Here the 14 tracks are short, the pace brisk and controls are strict. The 3/4 pace of "Yellow Spot In The Sun becomes a merry romp in their hands. "Different Places transforms from staid chorale to bright dialogue for bass and guitar as Motian stirs the air; "Platform erects a three-leg daïs of delightful discourse and "Combustion hums with raw swing. When Grdina unpacks his detuned oud on "Renunciation , "Morning Moon and the title track, the vets up the ante, laying on robust micro-rhythms, Eastern dance motifs, amid few thoughtful tacets. Structures become less tight, more fluid, with moments of break-out joy.
Like the stone in the soup, Motian, a fountain of the music, keeps the flow fresh, the sound new and enriches whatever players put into it.
Tracks and Personnel
Change of Heart
Tracks: The Healing Power of Intimacy; Change of Heart; Barefaced Thieves; Venn; Buried Somewhere; In The Moment; Three Hours; In Code.
Personnel: Martin Speake: alto saxophone; Bob Stenson: piano; Mick Hutton: bass; Paul Motian: drums.
Think Like the Waves
Tracks: Yellow Spot into the Sun; Different Places; Platform; Renunciation; Morning Moon; Ginger Root; 100 Years; Distant; Combustion; Think Like the Waves; Cobble Hill; Albert the Monk; String Quartet #6; Strathcona.
Personnel: Gordon Grdina: guitar, oud; Gary Peacock: bass; Paul Motian: drums.