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JazzTimes 10: The Composing Drummer (or the Drumming Composer)

A tentet of works by players who are as mighty with the pen as they are with the sticks

2. Paul Motian: “For the Love of Sarah” (Paul Motian Trio, One Time Out, Soul Note, 1990)

Paul Motian was an acclaimed composer, and also an extremely diverse and prolific one—which made for a great variety of moods on any collection of his music. “For the Love of Sarah” is one of his most memorable pieces, a balance of convention (AABA form, swing, melody developed through repetition) and defiance thereof (angular phrasing and harmony, both expressed without the aid of a bass line). To a great degree, it’s that balance that defines the tune, imbued as it is with the kind of sturdy stability we might not expect from its irregular musical shapes. The decidedly atypical trio is another spanner in the works; though Motian was well-known for his work with pianists like Bill Evans and Geri Allen, this trio with saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell was a horse of a different color. One more quirk: Despite its title, few would identify “For the Love of Sarah” as a love song. But it is one, after a fashion—Sarah was the name of Motian’s sister.

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Originally Published

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.