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Paul Motian / Chris Potter / Jason Moran: Lost in a Dream

Dan McClenaghan By

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Drummer Paul Motian seems to fit very comfortably into any musical situation, and elevate it. With a career that spans more than five decades—and seeming to begin at an early pinnacle with pianist Bill Evans' trio on the legendary Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside Records, 1961)—Motian has, as a sideman, augmented musical visions galore. A listen no further than his contributions to Bobo Stenson's Goodbye (ECM Records, 2005), Anat Fort's A Long Story (ECM Records, 2007), or Marc Copland's New York Trio Recordings Vol. 1: Voices (Pirouet Records, 2007) provides just a small slice of the magic he has made in his sideman stints during this millennium alone.

Lost in A Dream, recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York, finds Motian leading a trio featuring pianist Jason Moran and saxophonist Chris Potter. A close comparison can be made between this lineup and that of the drummer's long-standing trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano. Here, the switch of guitar with piano seems to lessen the lighter-than-air shimmer of the ensemble and add more gravity, depth and richness to the sound.

A sense of restraint and contemplation pervades, starting with "Mode VI." Potter's tenor sax cries with an aching beauty, while Moran places spare notes in perfect places on this tune, which sounds like a first cousin to Thelonious Monk's "Ruby My Dear." Motian's drumming is covert—whispers and rustlings, muted splashes, like hearing a pebble dropped into a pond through the muffling effect of a stand of dense foliage.

"Casino" is even more unhurried, Motian and Moran more subtle. Motian is so subdued that probably only ECM Records' crystalline sound could work. The tune is pure poetry, as Moran takes a deep, inward journey on his solo, and Motian paints with faded pastels, watercolors that just hint and sigh about different hues.

The title tune has more momentum, with Motian becoming more a percussionist than painter, supplying a rhythm full of seemingly random, in-the-moment eccentricities that, with a complete lack of predictability, accentuate the work of his band mates.

Irvin Berlin's "Be Careful It's My Heart" is the lone cover on a set of the leader's originals. It injects a brief slice of familiarity to the proceedings, with Potter sounding especially robust in front of some of Moran's busier forays.

"Birdsong" has a dream-like feeling in the beginning, poignant and introspective. Moran's piano is at its most gorgeous here before Potter's sax rises in the direction of anguish and Motian's brushes rasp in soft caresses of the skins. Then they turn up the heat, on "Ten," with Moran and the leader both moving into more percussive modes, Motian rumbling, the piano jumbling into freer territory before Potter wails in on a tremolo.

Paul Motian playing in a trio—where his percussive poetry shines the brightest—is always excellent listening experience, and Lost in a Dream is one of his finest trio affairs. Gorgeous music!

Track Listing: Mode VI; Casino; Lost In A Dream; Blue Midnight; Be Careful It's My Heart; Birdsong; Ten; Drum Music; Abacus; Cathedral Song.

Personnel: Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Jason Moran: piano; Paul Motian: drums.

Title: Lost In A Dream | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: ECM Records

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