Paul Motian convened this trio for a special project at New York’s Village Vanguard in February 2009. From a week of concert recordings, Motian and producer Manfred Eicher subsequently selected the material presented on “Lost In A Dream”. The album puts an emphasis on balladry, uses ballads as vehicles for profound soloing and group playing. In these touching performances of Paul’s songs, increasingly open to improvisational intervention, we get to learn more of the specific capacities of the featured musicians – and of the potential of this combination of players.
Chris Potter and Paul Motian have plenty of history together. Potter was a charter member of the drummer’s Electric Bebop Band when barely out of his teens, has continued to work with him in the Trio 2000, and been strongly influenced by Paul’s approach to music making. As the saxophonist told journalist Bill Milkowski, “Motian has really had a big effect on the way that I think about music: He approaches things from such an anti-analytical way. He relies on his aesthetic sensibility and his instinct. It takes a lot of courage to do that.”
The present project is a characteristic leap of faith. Although the New York Times, reviewing the concerts, would write that “the playing of Mr Moran had a strong pull in the music, attesting to some deep compatibility with Mr Motian,“ the drummer and pianist had worked together only once previously, in the context of a gig with violinist Jenny Scheinman in 2006. Motian noted Moran’s particular idiosyncrasies – not least that strong, independent left hand – and waited for the right context to deploy them.
Moran and Potter, meanwhile, have been collaborators in a number of contexts: both have worked with Dave Holland, for instance, and both are currently member of his Overtone Quartet.
There is a cragginess in Jason Moran’s playing perhaps related to inspirational roots in Thelonious Monk – an attribute that Motian, who played briefly with Monk in the 1950s is likely to value. Motian himself has certainly retained a Monkish sense of stubborn independence and he remains the most unpredictable of drummers. In the playing of both Motian and Moran there is flintiness and suppleness in juxtaposition. These qualities also help to set up unique frameworks in which Chris Potter’s saxophones can find expression. “Lost In A Dream” is amongst Potter’s strongest recorded performances. He plays Motian’s melodies with great emotional conviction.
Here, new Motian tunes are heard alongside older pieces – “Birdsong” (from “Tati”) and “Drum Music” and “Abacus” (first heard on Paul’s now legendary album “Le Voyage”). A free exploration of Irving Berlin’s “Be Careful It’s My Heart” completes a programme distinguished by graceful playing from all three participants who are in tune at a high level. There is a lot of space in the music, and the players take full creative advantage of it.
In the flowing ballads of “Lost In A Dream”, Motian is as much a sound painter as a keeper of pulses, excelling in the free ballad genre that he helped to invent, but also supremely well-equipped to address the swirling free exchanges of “Ten”, “Drum Music” and “Abacus”.
“Lost In A Dream” marks a second ECM appearance for Jason Moran, who made his label debut last year on Charles Lloyd’s widely-celebrated “Rabo De Nube”. Chris Potter’s previous ECM credits include five albums with Dave Holland, and three with Steve Swallow on XtraWatt.
Amongst the very first artists to appear on ECM, with Paul Bley’s trio and then with Keith Jarrett’s ‘American Quartet’, Paul Motian’s career as a leader was begun at the label. “Conception Vessel” was soon followed by other important musical statements including “Tribute”, “Dance”, “Le Voyage”, “Psalm” and “It Should Have Happened A Long Time Ago”. His 21st century output for ECM includes two albums with his trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano, as well as “Garden of Eden” with the Paul Motian Band. He can also be heard on Enrico Rava’s “Tati” and “New York Days” and discs with Marilyn Crispell and Anat Fort.
“Lost In A Dream” is issued in time for a week of Motian trio concerts at New York’s Village Vanguard from March 16-21.