Today we get the news of the passing of Paul Motian at age 80 (1931-2011), the legendary drummer forever linked with pianist Bill Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro in the definitive piano trio under Evans leadership. His output as a leader and sideman has been tremendous, as has his influence on drummers and music in general.
As columnist James Hale remarks:
I can’t begin to count the number of recordings I have that feature drummer Paul Motian, who died today at age 80, and I can’t think of a disappointing one among them. Not only did he have exceptional taste about who he played with, he lifted every recording by his touch and unique sense of rhythm and colour. Several of the bands he was a member of—including Keith Jarrett’s so-called American Quartet and his own trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano—are among the very best jazz groups of the past 50 years.
Last summer I wrote about a great recording from drummer Paul Motian, saying:
The pacing and quiet introspection make this a recording that can easily fade into the background, yet it is this very subtlety that invites you to listen again and again to mine the rich depths these musicians explore. All but one of the songs is a Motian composition, with some reaching back to the 1970?s. Each has a distinct personality and structure. Some are straight forward, others are more complex, but every one gives plenty of space for improvisation and interplay. And Potter, Moran and Morian are all up to the task. This is very much music in the ‘ECM style’ (if you know what that means, you will either run towards or away from this recording), and I feel this will be remembered as one of the best recordings in the long and classic-laden history of the great Paul Motian.
Here is a more recent clip of Motian in 2010 with John Scofield, Chick Corea and bassist Eddie Gomez at the Blue Note in New York:
Motian is someone whose work I always loved but never got to see live – I was supposed to see him a few years ago but a scheduling problem caused the cancellation of the show. RIP Paul Motian, you will be missed, but your music will notbe forgotten.