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Paul Motian

Paul Motian would be a legendary drummer if just for his membership in the 1959-61 Bill Evans Trio that featured bassist Scott LaFaro. But there is much more to his musical legacy than that one association. Born in Philadelphia in 1931, Motian started on the drums when he was 12. An early gig saw him touring New England with a swing band. After a stint in the Navy during the Korean War, he moved to New York in 1955. Motian had a variety of high-profile jobs, including stays with Thelonious Monk, George Russell, Lennie Tristano and Coleman Hawkins. While with the Tony Scott Quartet, Motian got along well with the other players: Evans and LaFaro. The Bill Evans Trio formed out of that group and made history with their subtle interplay. After LaFaro’s tragic death in a car accident, Motian stayed with Evans to 1963, playing in the trio that also featured bassist Chuck Israels. He next worked with Paul Bley in a trio that extended the innovations of Evans. Motian was associated with Keith Jarrett, with whom he first played in 1967, throughout much of the 1970s, working and recording with Jarrett’s Quintet, which also featured Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden. Motian also freelanced, including jobs with Warne Marsh, Don Cherry, Mose Allison, Carla Bley, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Ensemble and Charles Lloyd. He made his recording debut as a leader in 1972 (Conception Vessel) and recorded frequently for ECM during the next decade and later for Soul Note, JMT and Winter & Winter. Motian had a trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano in the early 1980s. He has also led the Electric Bebop Band (with Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Chris Cheek or Tony Malaby on saxophones) and several different ensembles that usually included Frisell’s guitar, which often took the place of both piano and bass. In addition, he has worked as a sideman with Marilyn Crispell, Lee Konitz and Leni Stern. Paul Motian’s floating and subtle style of drumming implies rather than states the time and has become quite influential.