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Paul Motian: I Have the Room Above Her & Motian in Tokio

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Paul Motian
I Have the Room Above Her
ECM Records
2005

I Have the Room Above Her is an odd title choice, considering the title track is one of only two songs that drummer Paul Motian didn't write himself. Maybe Motian's too modest to go with one of his own titles, but judging by the strength of his original songs, he needn't be. (Incidentally, the aforementioned Kern-Hammerstein tune and Monk's "Dreamland are the weakest tracks; these Joe Lovano-centered pieces, ballads both, seemed a bit florid and lethargic.)

Motian's compositions are like his drum playing—sparse, often delicate, seamless and never overstated. The stand-out "Shadows provides what the title implies: it's dark, lingering, carefully shaded. The songs don't sound like they were written by a drummer and that's a good thing. Motian knows when to fall back, as if he's reluctant to get in the way of either Lovano or guitarist Bill Frisell. And it's a remarkably flash-free, egoless venture; no one has anything to prove. The opener "Osmosis Part III is so subtle it's almost sleepy, an appropriate setting-of-the-tone for the rest of the disc.

"Osmosis Part I surfaces five tracks after "Part III , in the spirit of this non-linear project, which—while hardly "free time—isn't restrained by the strictures of rigid post-bop forms. Here Frisell lays counter textures (though never counterintuitive) underneath Lovano's saxophone. Alternately delicate and rollicking, fragmented and fluid: Frisell works his instrument like Motian engages his ride cymbal.

Bill Frisell/Joe Lovano/Paul Motian
Motian In Tokio
JMT-Winter & Winter
Release 1991; Reissued 2004

The same trio does quite a bit of engaging on the recently reissued Motian In Tokio from 1991. Consisting mostly of Motian compositions, the program serves as a thematic link to the trio's current work, while also holding its own nicely. Frisell's sound is heavier and more ethereal, the drums more forceful. The disc—handsomely bound in paperboard—looks like a small sketchbook, but sounds much bigger, as large as life.

I Have the Room Above Her

Tracks: Osmosis, Pt. III; Sketches; Odd Man; Shadows; I Have the Room Above Her; Osmosis, Pt. I; Dance; Harmony; The Riot Act; The Bag Man; One in Three; Dreamland.

Personnel: Bill Frisell: (guitar); Joe Lovano: (tenor saxophone); Paul Motian: (drums)

In Tokio

Tracks: From Time to Time; Shakalaka; Kathelin Gray; The Hoax; Mumbo Jumbo; Birdsong I; Mode VI; Two Women from Padua; It Is; Birdsong II.

Personnel: Bill Frisell: guitar; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone; Paul Motian: drums.

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