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Perpetual Motian: An Old Cat with New Tricks

Tom Greenland By

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Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Paul Motian
Untold Story
Egea
2007


Joe Lovano/Bill Frisell/Paul Motian
Time & Time Again
ECM
2007




Having circumnavigated the sun for over three-quarters of a century now, drummer Paul Motian shows no signs of altering his orbital momentum; two meetings with old friends demonstrate his freshness and vitality—his eternal youth.

Untold Story, a recently exhumed recording from 1993, is a trio outing with Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi and bassist Marc Johnson. The session documents Pieranunzi as an emerging voice, arising from and through the twin pillars of Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner, embracing and embellishing these influences to create something of his own. Motian is ever the understatesman, though his style in this period seems denser, less implied. Johnson is in fine fettle: his stuttered licks on the opening cut continually climb without truly ascending, like M.C. Escher's perpetual-motion staircase illusion, and his shout-outs on "Improlude are heeded by centripetal piano figures. From the hesitant authority of "Chantango (with a catchy 3+3+3+2+2 beat structure) to the swinging combustion of Motian's "Abacus, to the standout "Mode VI , with its sidewinding harmonies and easy swing, Pieranunzi and company deliver a well-balanced palette of three-way jazz transactivity.

Time and Time Again is the latest from Motian's ongoing collaboration with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell, one of the most consistently satisfying groups in improvisative music. Largely a collection of the drummer's compositions—vignettes of Americana diffracted through the lens of counterculture sensibilities—the set also includes Lovano's angular "Party Line (an apt metaphor for these trio-ly conversations) and two unusual gems: Monk's "Light Blue plus Rodgers & Hammerstein's "This Nearly Was Mine .

Most of the tracks get right to the point: rather than stretching out, the group stretches 'in', creating infinite space and variation in the small cracks and crevices of the musical veneer. Motian's timekeeping seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once, not so much deconstructing the beat as displacing it in disparate voicings across his drumkit. Frisell's guitarisms, rooted in the fingerings and fretboard patterns germane to the instrument, sound otherworldly in the hands of this master; and Lovano, the consummate craftsman, plies his trademark 'quiet fire'. It is a great satisfaction to listen in on these three as they go about their pleasures.


Tracks & Personnel

Untold Story

Tracks: Chantango; Abacus; Episode; For Your Peace; September Waltz; Mode VI; Improlude; Dream Book; Django.

Personnel: Enrico Pieranunzi: piano; Marc Johnson: bass; Paul Motian: drums.

Time & Time Again

Tracks: Cambodia; Wednesday; Onetwo; Whirlpool; In Remembrance of Things Past; K.T.; This Nearly Was Mine; Party Line; Light Blue; Time & Time Again.

Personnel: Joe Lovano; Bill Frisell; Paul Motian.


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