Consider this album a blind date of sorts: Drummer Paul Motian-meets-pianist-Jason Moran
, introduced by the matchmaker, saxophonist Chris Potter
. Though Motian had worked once with Moran in 2006, this collaboration is a stunning example of the versatility and mastery of Motian's veteran technique. Recorded over a week of concerts at New York City's Village Vanguard, Motian's stomping grounds, this album is held together by the trio's seemingly effortless exploration of slow, melodic ballads. At 79, Motian has proven to be a versatile and thorough player, thriving in any combination of players.
With plenty of elbow room within his compositions, Motian expresses a reserved chaosjust enough beneath the shimmery surfaces of Potter's smooth melodic lines. Evoking Lester Young
, Potter often acts as an intermediary between Motian and Moran, a kind of bridge between the latter's subdued, harmonically dense playing and the former's freer cymbal-work. That is not to say that Potter comes off as too slick on this album; on the contrary, his improvisations in both the quieter, more delicate moments, as well as in the louder, raucous instances (such as on "Drum Music") tie the album together, both stylistically and melodically.
The one non-Motian composition is Irving Berlin's "Be Careful It's My Heart," and this ballad fits perfectly with Motian's own; though there is more harmonic movement, Moran handles it in such a way that allows Potter to shine through with free, beautiful, melody. A quick three-minute run-through, this track is a microcosm of the album as a whole.
The track with the highest energy is perhaps "Drum Music," a composition from Motian's 1979 ECM album Le Voyage
, showcasing Motian's free style alongside Potter's more harmonically free improvisation. Moran's heavy left hand and Motian's more rhythmic playing on this track synch up in an unexpected way, showing that these players really should get together more often. The next track, "Abacus," also from 1979, features an extended solo by Motian sandwiched between the lead and a da capo
repetition, performed smartly with restraint. Small touchesa snare hit here, a Monk-like chord thereelevate this composition to a masterful level, a stacked hand that plays its cards one by one, revealing more and more as it goes on.