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Paul Motian: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1

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What has always been beautiful about drummer/composer Paul Motian is his use of space or silence. His concept seems to be more about letting creative voices come through the total texture. Sometimes the voice is the drum, but sometimes it is sax or piano and Motian plays ideally, regardless of textural setting. Speaking of piano, Masabumi Kikuchi's playing on this live recording is consistently striking. Motian has played with some of the greatest pianists in the history of the music, including Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett, and Kikuchi's playing is perfect for this project.

On the opening track, Motian's "Standard Time," both the leader and Kikuchi let the simple, yet off- kilter melody come through Greg Osby's alto and Chris Potter's tenor while inserting little bursts of sonic energy in the provided spaces. The first soloist is bassist Larry Grenadier, Kikuchi comping with such creativity and freshness that we hear a bass solo in a totally different light. Grenadier's lead then organically moves the band into a swing groove for a seething tenor statement by Potter. Osby follows, upping the ante, yet the rhythm trio has some surprises for the altoist by varying the texture of the piece.

On Tadd Dameron's gorgeous ballad, "If You Could See Me Now (the CD's only non-Motian composition), Kikuchi's introduction is full of gentle surprises: namely the harmonic twists and melodic turns with their rich sense of dynamics that must have had Vanguard listeners on the edge of their seats. Both Potter and Osby play great solos and astonishingly trade throughout the form of the tune, giving listeners a great example of how jazz improvisers not only can communicate with the structure of a tune, but amongst one other as well. The solos eventually coalesce into the out-going melody statement, providing a totally satisfying yet original take on this classic.

"Olivia's Dream is a quintessential Motian composition, played with the kind of looseness for which his bands have become well known. The improvising starts from the very beginning but, as the statement of the theme gives way to even more spontaneity, the section takes on the appearance of a sax duet over rhythm. Again, the art of listening and instant composing is fully and satisfyingly on display here in the first four minutes. The saxophones in turn give way to the first real piano solo in the set and listeners should pay close attention in particular to this section of the CD—as it is some of the greatest, most original piano trio playing on the contemporary scene.

This recording is another significant example of Motian's unique art and ongoing contribution to jazz.


Track Listing: Standard Time; If You Could See Me Now; Olivia

Personnel: Paul Motian: drums; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Larry Grenadier: bass; Greg Osby: alto saxophone; Masabumi Kikuchi: piano.

Title: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Winter & Winter


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