An unorthodox timekeeper and masterful drummer, Paul Motian's momentum has not waned since working with Bill Evans
in the 1950s, Charlie Haden
's Liberation Music Orchestra and Keith Jarrett
's American Quartet in the 1960s, and, more recently, younger artists including Jacob Sacks, Eivind Opsvik
and Mat Maneri
in Two Miles a Day
(Loyal Label, 2007). Among Motian's many recordings as a leader, his On Broadway
series started in 1989, on the German JMT label, featuring past members Bill Frisell
and Joe Lovano
, and now continues with On Broadway Vol. 5
, featuring enigmatic and moving interpretations of show-tunes and popular songs.
Whether it's Motian's slowly winding "Morrock" or the lovely read of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz's "I See Your Face Before Me," once sung by Frank Sinatra
, these sumptuous gems seem to slow time and space with their balladry, mood and aesthetic qualities. The musicians take their time with these compositions, savoring each moment as they supply in-the-moment performances, buoyed by Motian's massaging tempos and feathery cymbal work.
The seven selections are rendered through a potent quintet. Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikichu has played in Motian's groups for many years. His atonal and occasionally excruciating audibles, reminiscent of Keith Jarrett
, are overshadowed by his wonderful phrasing and lyricism. The dual reeds of Loren Stillman
and Michael Attias
illuminate differing tonalitiesAttias' woody lower resonance and Stillman's upper timbre, complimenting each other as Thomas Morgan's bass anchors the melodies.
Jimmy McHugh/Harold Adamson's 1943 tune, "A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening," is damn near perfectnot in just in it's execution, but also in the way it exudes emotion. The abstract coloring of Lionel Hampton
and Sunny Burke's "Midnight Sun" is denoted by Kikichu's brilliance, as the luxuriant horns state the time-weathered melody. The recording's curtain call, Frank Loesser's "Sue Me," from the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls
, is simply divine as it delicately balances dissonance and harmony. Mirroring the entire set, it is a testament to the source material and Motian's own stylistic touches in keeping the music relevant and contemporary. At nearly 80 years of age, his vitality and art continue to inspire.