Paul Motian: Voices and Portrait in Jazz

Francis Lo Kee By

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Marc Copland

New York Trio Recordings Vol. 2: Voices



Bill Evans

Portrait in Jazz



Paul Motian is a catalytic musician. His imaginative playing shapes the sound of a project in a way that most other drummers would generally not consider. Where most drummers would simply keep some kind of steady beat through an entire piece, or every piece, Motian exercises all his options: keeping time, playing a free counterpoint, playing loud or soft or even using silence. His approach tends to make most of the tracks he plays on sincerely special and truly unique. For instance, "At Night," a beautiful piece from pianist Marc Copland's Voices, has a gentle, but steady beat. However, Motian chooses to go in and out of playing time. The piece uses a descending four-chord pattern in a very repetitive way and the drummer's distinctive approach ensures that repetitive equals enthralling, not boring. Of the eight tracks, four are by bassist Gary Peacock, three by Copland and there's a version of Miles Davis' "All Blues," yet there is a strong, modern focus. The aptly titled "That's It?" (less than 3 minutes in duration) gives spotlight to Motian in between angular piano and bass statements.

Bill Evans' Portrait in Jazz is one of the great masterpieces of modern music, presenting the pianist's new trio with the young, phenomenal bassist Scott LaFaro. Recorded at the end of 1959, it seemed to Evans that he had found his ultimate trio, with a bassist that could play with an equal level of technique and imagination as the leader and his drummer, Motian, who had already been playing with the pianist for a number of years. It was in this trio that Motian's style really began to develop. While listening to "What is This Thing Called Love?" you can hear him start with brushes, placing accents in unexpected places, playing steady time in the bridge, totally dropping out for the beginning of the piano solo and then changing to sticks to change once again the aural texture. During LaFaro's solo Evans and Motian join together in playing staccato accents and then a 16-measure drum solo follows; though there is some Philly Joe Jones influence to it, the use of space between the notes is pure Motian. "When I Fall in Love" is just one of the breathtaking ballads on this set (and its poignancy is elevated when you realize that LaFaro has less than two years to live); it's the absolute epitome of sensitive dynamic control from all instrumentalists. The two Evans compositions on this CD are "Peri's Scope," a medium swing tune, and the unique and mysterious "Blue in Green". In addition, there are three previously unreleased takes of "Blue in Green" and "Come Rain or Come Shine". A must have.

Tracks and Personnel

New York Trio Recordings Vol. 2: Voices

Tracks: Vignette; Albert; River's Run; Voices; Runner; That's It?; All Blues; At Night.

Personnel: Marc Copland: piano; Gary Peacock: bass; Paul Motian: drums.

Portrait in Jazz

Tracks: Come Rain Or Come Shine (Take 5); Autumn Leaves; Witchcraft; When I Fall In Love; Peri's Scope; What Is This Thing Called Love?; Spring Is Here; Someday My Prince Will Come; Blue In Green (Take 3); Come Rain Or Come Shine (Take 4); Autumn Leaves (Take 9, monaural); Blue In Green (Take 1); Blue In Green (Take 2).

Personnel: Bill Evans: piano; Scott LaFaro: bass; Paul Motian: drums.


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