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Paul Motian, RIP

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The jazz world and the drumming world weeps tonight.

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  • howard

    One of the handful of greatest jazz drummers, a man whose playing just rippled. Sadly i only saw him twice but the recordings live on.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Is there any Motian solo work you recommend? I love the album he did with Frisell a few years ago, and of course as someone said below Fort Yawuh is awesome…

      • I have a couple of his Paul Motian Trio live albums (Frisell and Joe Lovano make up the trio) that are pretty good.

      • howard

        scott, that is a very tough question: it’s hard to go too wrong with any of motian’s work, where the various trios, the electric bebop band, or some of the sundry other combos, and of course, the man was brilliant in his covers, both jazz (monk, powell, mingus) and standards, and then he wrote some great tunes as well (just to digress, there’s a very nice album that came out earlier this year by the joel harrison string choir, “the music of paul motian”).

        ok, now that i’ve stalled, erik is right that the work with lovano and frisell is excellent, but i guess if i had to pick a couple to get started on, i might suggest “the garden of eden” (lots of mingus covers) and “on broadway, vol. 3” (the entire “on broadway” series is great, but this one includes lee konitz, who is the perfect gnomic foil for motian).

        i’d also suggest reading the motian chapter in ben ratliff’s book of interviews, “the jazz ear,” which delves nicely into the drummers who influenced motian’s unique style.

        p.s. just for the fun of it, i was asking myself who else do i include in the top tier of jazz drummers, and my answer was: jo jones, sid catlett, max roach, elvin jones, ed blackwell, tony williams, and roy haynes are his only peers.

        and i go into this partly to have an excuse to recommend jo jones’ “the drums” (http://www.amazon.com/Drums-Jo-Jones/dp/B001BSH1HU/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1322072279&sr=1-1), which consists of papa jo in a studio with a drum kit and a microphone, talking about jazz drumming and all the drummers that influenced him, and then demonstrating their styles.

        i first got a cassette copy of it from the same critic i mentioned below who wondered where all the communists in cambridge were when the liberation music orchestra didn’t sell out, and if you’re interested in the history of jazz drumming, it’s a must-have.

  • Dave C.

    As soon as I heard, I had to play “Ballad of the Fallen” as loudly as possible (Ethan Iverson said “I think the best big band drumming I ever heard is Paul with the Liberation Music Orchestra”). I only saw Paul live once, at Birdland in 2010 with Konitz, Haden, and Brad Mehldau.

    • Oddly, I listened to that Liberation Music Orchestra album today before I heard Motian died. Been a very long time since I had played it too.

    • Vance Maverick

      I saw him with Frisell and Lovano at the Knitting Factory in 1989. By far the best playing I’ve heard from Frisell. But nothing can displace the (obvious) trio with Evans and LaFaro.

    • howard

      i saw the liberation music orchestra about 20 years ago at the charles hotel in cambridge and inexplicably, they didn’t sell out. as a music-critic friend said to me “where did all the communists in cambridge go?” (i don’t recall motian drumming that night, though, although in the mists of time, i’m not 100% certain: maybe i saw him 3 times?)

      • How could that show not sell out? No wonder the nation started voting Republican.

        • howard

          just because i’m taking today off and feeling anecdotal, let me mention that i will never forget showing up at an election eve party in 1980 at 8:05 eastern, when the die was already cast for reagan, and having the same critic i just mentioned grab my bottle of wild turkey and have at it!

  • sparks

    I remember when Billy Higgins was terribly ill, I sent a donation to help out with his bills, and he passed away not long after. It’s a tough life being a jazz musician, no matter how good.

    RIP Paul Motian.

  • BW

    A true giant. “De Drums” from Keith Jarrett’s Fort Yawuh is a tune I can’t shake out of my head.

    BTW even the WKCR DJs (they are having a Motian retrospective right now) mispronounce his Armenian last name as “Mo-shun.” It’s actually “Mo-tee-un.” Apparently Paul himself gave up on correcting everyone and tolerated the wrong pronunciation.

    • This is good know since I’ve obviously been mispronouncing his name for the last 15 years.

  • Bill Frisell needs an effects device that will take the chorus off his guitar and put it back into mono.

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