Tuesday, November 22, 2011

R.I.P.: Paul Motian

(born Stephen Paul Motian on March 25, 1931 in Philadelphia, PA, USA;
died November 22, 2011, in New York, NY, USA)
We have just got the sad news about the death of Paul Motian, who passed away a few hours ago, at 4:52 am, at Mount Sinai Hospital in NY.

A masterfully subtle drummer and a superb colorist, Paul Motian was also an advanced improviser and a challenging bandleader with a taste for challenging post-bop. He grew up in Providence and began playing the drums at age 12, eventually touring New England in a swing band. Motian moved to New York in 1955 and played with numerous musicians - including Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano, Coleman Hawkins, Tony Scott, and George Russell - before settling into a regular role as part of Bill Evans' most famous trio (with bassist Scott LaFaro), appearing on his classic albums "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" and "Waltz for Debby."
In 1963, Motian left Evans' group to join up with Paul Bley for a year or so, and began a long association with Keith Jarrett in 1966, appearing with the pianist's American-based quartet through 1977.

In addition, Motian freelanced for artists like Mose Allison, Charles Lloyd, Carla Bley, and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Ensemble, and turned down the chance to be John Coltrane's second drummer. In 1972, Motian recorded his first session as a leader, "Conception Vessel," for ECM, followed by "Tribute" in 1974. He formed a regular working group in 1977 (which featured tenor Joe Lovano) and recorded several more dates for ECM, then revamped the ensemble to include guitarist Bill Frisell in 1980. Additional dates for ECM and Soul Note followed, and in 1988 Motian moved to JMT, where he recorded a long string of fine albums beginning with "Monk in Motian."

During the '90s, he also led an ensemble called the Electric Bebop Band, which featured Joshua Redman. In 1998, Motian signed on with the Winter & Winter label, where he began recording another steady stream of albums, including "2000 + One" in 1999, "Europe" in 2001, and "Holiday for Strings" in 2002. In 2005 Motian returned to Manfred Eicher's ECM label, releasing such CDs as "I Have the Room Above Her," "Garden of Eden", "Time and Time Again" and, more recently, "Lost in a Dream" (2010) and "Live at Birdland" (2011). His latest release came out last August, released on the Winter & Winter label: "The Windmills of Your Mind," cut in September 2010 with Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan and Petra Haden. Rest in Peace.

Drummer Paul Motian dies at 80
The Los Angeles Times
November 22, 2011 10:35 am

Paul Motian, a beautifully subtle, versatile drummer who recorded with a wealth of jazz artists over his long career, died early Tuesday in New York City. He was 80.

The cause was complications of myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone-marrow disorder, his friend Carole d’Inverno Frisell told the New York Times.

First rising to prominence as a member of Bill Evans' trio on landmark recordings such as "Waltz for Debby" and "Sunday at the Village Vanguard," Motian also enjoyed long partnerships with Keith Jarrett, Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden on top of a long, rich career as a bandleader that began with "Conception Vessel" in 1972.

In recent years, Motian showed little signs of slowing down, with 2011 yielding albums with saxophonist Bill McHenry and a recording from a generation-spanning 2009 show with Brad Mehldau, Haden and Lee Konitz, "Live at Birdland."

Needless to say, there are a wealth of recordings available online to remember Motian.
Paul Motian, Jazz Drummer, Is Dead at 80
By Ben Ratliff - The New York Times
November 22, 2011


Paul Motian, a drummer, bandleader, and composer of grace and abstraction, and one of the most influential jazz musicians of the last 50 years, died early Tuesday morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He was 80 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was complications of myelodisplastic syndrome, a bone-marrow disorder, said his friend, Carole d’Inverno Frisell.

Mr. Motian was a living connection to some of the groups of the past that informed what jazz sounds like today: he had been in Bill Evans’s great trio in the late 1950s and early 1960s, playing on the albums “Waltz for Debby” and “Sunday at the Village Vanguard,” and in Keith Jarrett’s American quartet during the 1970s. But it was in the second half of his life that Mr. Motian found himself as a composer and a bandleader, and his own work took off.

He worked steadily, and for the last six years or so almost entirely in Manhattan, with the support of the record producers Stefan Winter and Manfred Eicher, who streamed out his albums, and Lorraine Gordon of the Village Vanguard, who eventually booked his groups for up to four or five weeks per year.

Then there were the many musicians he played with regularly, including the saxophonist Joe Lovano and the guitarist Bill Frisell, with whom he kept a working trio; the pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and the saxophonists Greg Osby and Chris Potter, with whom he played in trios and quartets; the members of the Electric Bebop Band, with multiple electric guitars, which in 2006 became the Paul Motian Band; and dozens of other musicians, from young unknowns to old masters.

For almost all of his bands, his repertory was a combination of terse and mysterious originals he composed at the piano, American songbook standards, and music from the bebop tradition: Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus.

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