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Radioville: Box-setting Motian

November 30, 2011

Frisell, Motian, Lovano

As heard on WDCB Public Radio DeKalb, my piece on putting together your own box sets of the late Paul Motian’s excellent recordings is here.


For the hearing impaired, radio-resistant, iPad-addicted, sound-proofed and eye-resting, here’s the text of my piece:

Tis the season to be giving box sets, and this year, there are plenty of great ones to choose from. But I’d like to propose some do-it-yourself collections in honor of drummer Paul Motian, whose death last week inspired lots of tributes to his work with Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, but not a lot of talk about the standout albums he made under his own name. Three groupings of those albums would make terrific box sets.

The most essential of these albums are the ones by Motian’s longstanding trio with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell. They include 1990’s hot-wired One Man Out, included in an actual new box set of albums Motian recorded for the Italian Soul Note label, and 2007’s reflective Time and Time Again, recorded for ECM. You can hear this unconventional trio’s special chemistry develop over the years, on standards and Monk classics and originals. Solving the mystery of how they were able to put the group first without downplaying their individual skills is one of the pleasures povided by these albums.

Motian also recorded five standards albums under the tag, On Broadway. The early ones feature Lovano and Frisell, with guests like Lee Konitz and Charlie Haden, while the later ones are by Motian’s Trio 2000 Plus bands. The best of them is Continuity from 2006, featuring singer Rebecca Martin. Motian employed his own distinctive voices as a drummer, sometimes circling the melody, sweeping past it or floating above it. Sometimes he enunciated the rhythm, from different directions, never playing things straight.

Finally, there was Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, which usually featured a strong soloist like tenorist Chris Potter with twin guitarists. Their 1999 album of Monk and Bud Powell classics featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel and Steve Cardenas on guitar, is the centerpiece of this set. Happy compiling! With a two-minute album review, I’m Lloyd Sachs. Follow me on Twitter @sachsville and link to my blog, jazzespress.

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