When the enigmatic yet clearly inspired trio of pianist Paul Bley (pictured), bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian settled in for a gig at Birdland recently, their first gig together in New York City in several years, the subject was trio psychology, in this room, at this moment. All three players, together and apart and in assorted combinations, embrace the sanctity and the sensuality of The Moment. Some special alchemy occurs, however, with this particular grouping of players. Time gets massaged and dislodged, structures come in and out of focus, and you get the feeling that a real-time experiment is underway, its end result unknown to anyone, on either side of the stage.
Of course, it’s difficult to listen to this trio, which recorded the album Not Two, Not One for ECM in 1999, without peripheral comparisons to other mighty trios to which this one has familial links. Peacock’s 25-year role in the Keith Jarrett trio puts him in one of the highest-profile groups in jazz, and Motian’s similarly quarter-century-old trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano has recently, and rightly, been elevated to status as one of the great groups in post-1980 jazz.