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Portland Jazz Festival: A Celebration of ECM

There’s something to be said for jazz’s rejuvenating qualities when a 75-year-old man is more creative and prolific than most musicians a third his age. Or maybe there’s just something to be said for Paul Motian. Cloaked in a dark over-shirt with eyes hidden behind his trademark black specs, Motian is a septuagenarian sage of cool, a drum artisan whose time-keeping (or lack thereof) remains arguably the most inventive and singular technique practiced today. Motian effortlessly releases one meter-less abstraction after another, providing his expert band with formless rhythmic ambiance during sold-out, late-night dates at the most relevant jazz club in the world. Did I mention that Motian is in his 70s?

Of course, Motian has two brilliant foils in saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell, both of whom already carry the drummer’s brand of ineffable chic. Lovano and Frisell have earned this mystique through discerningly choosing their many projects-both men have several concurrent collaborations, none of them anything less than fascinating-and by developing utterly unique tones. In the case of Lovano, that tone exhibits the confident lyricism that has marked most great horn men. Whenever Lovano barked stout maelstroms of notes toward his audience with the volume of a fire-and-brimstone preacher, there was a genteel, romantic line or pause not too far off. For all his melodic and modal adventurousness, Lovano still wants things to sound, well, pretty.

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