Live at the Village Vanguard Volume I
Winter & Winter
Though his spot in the pantheon is secure—drumming for Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans will do that for you—Paul Motian has never been one to rest on his laurels. Earlier this year, his bass-less trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano released Time and Time Again, the excellent follow-up to its acclaimed ECM comeback, 2005’s I Have the Room Above Her. Both his guitar-centric “Band” and trio with Frisell and Ron Carter released albums in 2006 (Garden of Eden and Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian, respectively). And Motian has been busy as a sideman, as well, recording recent albums with Enrico Rava, Bobo Stenson and Anat Fort.
That would be enough for your average musician, much less a septuagenarian, but Motian, it seems, never gets tired of new combinations. Recorded with yet another trio—a sax-bass-and-drums combo that he’s expanded to include a second saxophonist and a pianist—the drummer’s latest is the first of what is slated to be a three-album series. What makes this Village Vanguard stint worthy of such exhaustive documentation is anyone’s guess. The band is in fine form, for sure. But it’s also Motian’s most conventional outfit. Much of this has to do with the presence of piano—played (and moaned at) by the Jarrett-esque Masabumi Kikuchi—an instrument that Motian often avoids. As a composer, the drummer favors free-floating melodies, and pianists tend to offer too many rich chords and ideas about harmony. Perhaps subsequent volumes will venture further from the familiar postbop of Live at the Village Vanguard Volume I. Motian fans have come to expect nothing less.