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Paul Motian: Trio 2000 + One

A few seconds into the probing opener “From Time to Time,” pianist Masabumi Kikuchi starts moaning-mewling horribly, a la Keith Jarrett. And I’m cringing. Thankfully, Kikuchi only appears on three tracks here, including the ruminative solo piano piece “Last Call,” which carries all the dramatic sweep of “Amazing Grace” and comes dangerously close to Koln Concert territory.

Elsewhere, the great drummer/band leader showcases his compositional flair and mercurial touch on the kit in the company of upright bassist Larry Grenadier, electric bassist Steve Swallow and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter. Motian’s Ornette-ish “Dance” features Potter stretching in particularly heroic fashion alongside Grenadier’s arco work, Swallow’s guitar-like lines and the drummer’s inimitable flowing pulse. They also combine for some spirited interplay on Motian’s splintered “One in Three.”

Potter plays with lyrical beauty and emotional depth on his own fragile ballad “Pas de Deux,” which alludes strongly to Monk’s “Ask Me Now” and is underscored by Motian’s fabulous off-time brushwork and feathered bass drum accents. Swallow plays the role of rhythm guitarist here, chording softly through the changes as Grenadier drops in sparse low-end statements before diving headlong into an extended and lyrical solo of his own.

Kikuchi returns in dramatic fashion on the ominous offering, “The Sunflower.” The mewling factor is far less pronounced here and the pianist’s dissonant clusters seem to spark an edge in the proceedings. Plus, the changes in tempo -a gradual speeding up and slowing down instigated by Motian’s surging-relaxing drumwork-add a level of urgency in Potter’s playing.

Swallow’s “Bend Over Backwards” is a jaunty off-kilter conversation between himself, Potter and Motian, whose melodic tendencies on the kit are in full effect here. And the closer, Potter’s, angular, Monkish “Protoplasm,” is an open-ended trio vehicle (sans Swallow) that exploits Motian’s dramatic use of space. Potter also plays with whirlwind force and assuredness here, further establishing his rep as one of the cream of the new crop of tenor players on the scene.

Originally Published