A drummer whose inventive approach to percussion has produced one of the most recognizable and in demand sounds in the pantheon of jazz, Paul Motian's revolutionary playing has seen him approach the kit not as a rhythmic backbone, but as a tool for subtlety and soundscape creation. Lost In A Dream
, Motian's set of midnight ballads, is a perfect evocation of the the New York Cityscape's iconography. His hushed brush work calls to mind the patter of rainthe mist and fog that shrouds the city. Fitting, then, that the drummer's induction of this new trio was recorded at the legendary Village Vanguard, assisted beautifully by pianist Jason Moran
and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter
, previously joined together in Dave Holland
's Overtone Quartet.
This set boasts both new and old material from Motian, including "Drum Music" and "Abacus," first heard on Le Voyage (ECM, 1979). "Bird Song," one of the current set's highlights, was first heard on Enrico Rava's Tati (ECM, 2005). Here, its heartbreaking circular melody is extended for each player to voice his individuality with subtle variations on the original material that will be a joy to those familiar with the song. Motian's trademark colorations bristle like distant neon lights through dense fog. Moran's piano work is nuanced, economical and giving, painting Motian's melody in a warm, soulful hue, rich in ambience. Potter's tenor lines caress the lilting melody in thick, slurred brushstrokes which, comparative to his work with Holland, are suitably restrained.
Although the album is dominated by mostly noir-ish balladry, found on "Mode VI," "Casino" and the title track, there is a gradual climb in intensity which begins to peak on the album's latter half. The fragmented bop melody of "Ten" simmers under skewered piano chords; showing glimmers of Potter's trademark raucous playing. On "Abacus," angular chords give way to Motian's jittering solo, all shuffle beats and cymbal splashes. These tracks give evidence of group's ability to work easily in a myriad of musical settings, the three-man interplay offering conversational opportunities that can change from whispered balladry to more kinetic freewheeling.
Motian is no stranger to the trio format, in which the revolutionary percussionist is comfortable, the space between the players allowing ample room for his deeply textural playing. His body of work for ECM is certainly filled with trio discs, pairing with bassist Gary Peacock for stints with pianists Marilyn Crispell, Paul Bley, and Keith Jarrett. Lacking the ethereal electricity of his longstanding trio featuring Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell, the timbral quality of his current group's instrumentation creates such sonically delicious counterpoints that his formation of yet another trio is instantly justified. Earning rapturous applause from the Vanguard audience, this rich, spacious set stands on its own merit due to the careful, soulful amalgamation of saxophone, piano and brushes, and is hopefully but the beginning of another fruitful union.