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November 2006

Paul Motian Trio 2000+One
On Broadway, Volume 4: Or the Paradox of Continuity
Winter & Winter

This really is the Paul Motian Trio 2000 plus one, strictly speaking. For this set of old Broadway ballads and flinty, hard-luck songs, Motian invites two guests to play with his trio—pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and singer Rebecca Martin—but he keeps them totally separated: Neither appears on any track featuring the other. Anyone who knows anything about the two guest musicians can probably imagine how their respective numbers contrast. Kikuchi brings abstraction and a touch of volatility to his tunes (as well as his unfortunate habit of vocalizing through what sounds like a throat wound). Martin’s dreamy-cool vocals hit the melody square in the center and keep the band in a much more put-together, conventional jazz idiom.

What’s remarkable is how strong a group identity Motian’s trio has and how little they have to change to accommodate such wildly different guests. Behind Kikuchi, Motian’s shimmering, elusive drumming and Larry Grenadier’s felicitous bass lines string the music together. Behind Martin, they keep things loose and playful. The central player in all this is Chris Potter, however. Even when he’s supporting Martin, he’s the most commanding presence in the band. He plays with a brio and a melodic invention so stunning it’s almost Sonny Rollins-esque—right down to the perverse trills on “Tea for Two” and “In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town.”

Originally published in November 2006
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