Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

320

Joel Harrison String Choir: The Music of Paul Motian

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Joel Harrison has stretched the boundaries of form and freedom for over fifteen years, but Urban Myths (HighNote, 2009) and, in particular, the ambitious The Wheel (Innova, 2008), have represented significant evolutionary leaps. The Wheel married a conventional horn-led jazz quintet with a classical string quartet, its collection of Harrison originals pushing the limits of cross-pollination by eliminating all preconceived stylistic delineators. The Music of Paul Motian takes The Wheel's advancements a step further, focusing on Motian's writing, rather than the textural and temporally implicit playing approach that has made him such an ongoing role model for generations of drummers.

With over forty albums as a leader, Motian's music aligns his belief in freedom, as a prerequisite, with a uniquely developed jazz vernacular and the American-born drummer's Armenian roots. Harrison gets right to the nub of the writing, focusing on the drummer's longstanding collaboration with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano as the primary reference point for interpretations of ten Motian compositions, and two tunes associated with the drummer, for the guitarist's String Choir—an often ethereal, but equally grounded group that conjoins two guitarists—Harrison, and the equally overlooked Liberty Ellman—and a string quartet with no shortage of collective improvising cred.

The underlying beauty and open-ended economy of Motian's writing is the current that runs beneath the entire program. On the title track to It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago (ECM, 1985), Harrison and Ellman join at the hip for an arrangement that passes Motian's melancholy melody, tag team-like, amongst the group—held by the guitarists, at times, but elsewhere by violinists Christian Howes (Harrison's first-call since The Wheel and another criminally undervalued talent) and Sam Bardfeld, violist Mat Maneri and cellist Dana Leong. The beauty of this album opener is the String Choir's avoidance of delineation, seamlessly integrating with persistent, egalitarian interaction. Elsewhere, Harrison takes the more jagged "Drum Music," first heard on Le Voyage (ECM, 1979), but more rooted in the quintet version on Jack of Clubs (Soul Note, 1984), with a central free-for-all that spotlights the sextet's six-way telepathy, as first one idea from Leon acts as a rallying point, only to gradually evolve to the next..and the next, before everyone cues back to the angular theme.

Combining abstract Americana interests brought to Motian's trio by Frisell on Harrison's arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso," and turning Scott LaFaro's "Jade Visions"—the only piece not appearing on a Motian record, but a tune he played often with pianist Bill Evans—into a haunting tone poem, the conversational approach to its blending of structure and spontaneity is all-Motian—and, of course, all-Harrison.

The Music of Paul Motian suggests that Motian's music deserves to be reexamined for its repertoire potential. With Harrison's sometimes expansive, elsewhere intimate arrangements for his unorthodox String Choir, the guitarist has created a lasting tribute to a drummer who, as he approaches octogenarian status in 2011, clearly has plenty left to say. It's also a compelling endorsement of Harrison, an artist who reveals new twists and turns with each successive release.

Track Listing: It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago; Drum Music; Cathedral Song; Misterioso; Mode VI; Owl of Cranston; Jade Visions; Split Decision; Etude; Mumbo Jumbo; Conception Vessel; From Time to Time.

Personnel: Christian Howes: violin; Sam Bardfeld: violin; Mat Maneri: viola (1-4, 6, 9, 10, 12); Peter Ugrin: viola (5, 7, 8, 11); Dana Leong: violincello; Joel Harrison: guitars; Liberty Ellman: guitars.

Title: The Music of Paul Motian | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Glow of Benares CD/LP/Track Review Glow of Benares
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Magic Circle CD/LP/Track Review Magic Circle
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 12, 2017
Read A Gathering Foretold CD/LP/Track Review A Gathering Foretold
by Geannine Reid
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Swinging In The Holidays CD/LP/Track Review Swinging In The Holidays
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "Tangents" CD/LP/Track Review Tangents
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 9, 2017
Read "Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 19, 2017
Read "Fusion Machine" CD/LP/Track Review Fusion Machine
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "Masters In Bordeaux" CD/LP/Track Review Masters In Bordeaux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Bismuth" CD/LP/Track Review Bismuth
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 29, 2017
Read "Drama" CD/LP/Track Review Drama
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 4, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!