• Live Blog: Motian/Frisell/Lovano at the Village Vanguard

    September 3, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Vanguard Motian Trio Marquee

    The show starts an hour from now, and we're as ready as we can be.  The crew arrived at 6pm, and Bill Frisell was sitting onstage, practicing silently.  He seemed to like the alone time, so we didn't bother him.  Paul Motian came to the club for a minute, then darted off to dinner.  Joe Lovano was leaving the airport in Cleveland at 3:30pm.  Haven't seen him yet.  With jazz, all is in flux, always.

    Due to an emergency, Joe Lovano missed opening night.  Saxophonist Bill McHenry, who plays regularly with Paul Motian, subbed for both sets last night. This is the second night of the trio's residency, but the first evening they're together.  Aftermore than two decades of playing together, these guys can just come in and play.

    We're live.  The trio is playing "The Bag Man," from their ECM release, I Have The Room Above Her.  Named after the Jerome Kern song from Showboat.

    This trio is comprised of musicians who are some of the foremost interpreters of Thelonious Monk's music.  This one called "Light Blue."  Motian played a week with Monk, but considers him a looming influence.

    After a beautiful "Time and Time Again," the trio goes into one of their familiar songs, "Jack of Clubs."  These gentlemen are completely in the moment...

    Thelonious Monk's "Ruby My Dear," minus piano.  Bill Frisell's opening is wafting around the ether.  Float like a butterfly...

    I'm detecting a trend here.  This is "Let's Cool One," another Monk composition.

    I really love this song.  It's called "Cambodia."  Apparently, Manfred Eicher from ECM inspired the name.  He said it sounded like Cambodia.  Maybe minus the Khmer Rouge?

    Bill Frisell = sound architect.  This is amazing.

    10:05pm  After a brief snippet of "Drum Music," we end.  Regretfully.  But the band here for the next two weeks.  It's even better in person.  Ciao.

  • Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano: Live At The Village Vanguard

    September 3, 2008. Posted by WBGO.

    Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano. (Image Credit: Arne Reimer/Courtesy of the artist)

    Drummer Paul Motian, guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano have become known as towering figures of modern jazz over the last 25 years. For nearly that long, the three multi-talented statesmen have also been playing together in an abstract yet immediately accessible trio. Regulars at the Village Vanguard, they united underground once again for the second night of a two-week stay, broadcast live on air by WBGO and live online by NPR Music.

    Together, the Motian/Frisell/Lovano unit has no single sound identity; their aesthetic, however, was distinct and readily identifiable. Owing to their long-standing association, the three communicated with heightened perception, anticipating each others' curveballs and responding in kind. Rotating tune and improvisation freely, the trio seemingly wove in and out of meter and harmony, yet always emerged together when the mood shifted anew.

    For fans accustomed to the group's internal logic, there was comfort in familiarity. Bill Frisell brought a full arsenal of techniques and effects to the fore; Joe Lovano commanded all manner of saxophone attacks; Paul Motian's wonderfully askew drumming made lurching accents into wholly natural punctuation. These textures floated over tunes from Motian, who has a knack for drawing beauty with spare remarks, and Thelonious Monk — a prime influence, Motian says — whose off-kilter genius translated perfectly to an already asymmetrical band.

    It was a set on the verge of not happening. The previous night, Lovano was called away on an emergency — he finally left Cleveland at 3:30 p.m. before a 9 p.m. show. (Bill McHenry, who has recorded several times with Motian, proved a capable substitute.) But the three all made it to stage for showtime, not having missed a beat, quite literally.

    Having appeared on literally hundreds of albums in more than 50 years — several of which were recorded at the Vanguard — Paul Motian is no stranger to jazz fans. His name first emerged in the wide public spotlight while playing in pianist Bill Evans' trio, another highly communicative and critically praised group; his percussion can be heard on that band's canonic recordings captured from the Village Vanguard in 1961. Since the 1970s, Motian has also led his own groups and recordings, and continues to appear at the Vanguard as both bandleader and sideman several weeks a year.

    In 1981, Motian recorded a quintet album called Psalm, and called upon the young Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano to fill out his ensemble. The two Berklee classmates later joined Motian in a trio lineup, and all have reconvened from time to time ever since. In between trio appearances, Frisell and Lovano both achieved recognition leading scores of their own projects. Frisell's genre-crossing electric-guitar attack and Lovano's full-toned fluency have generated two catalogs as musically diverse as they are large.

    Motian, Frisell and Lovano have recorded easily over a dozen unique discs as a trio or rhythm section since the 1980s, including at least one live at the Village Vanguard. Their latest, Time and Time Again, came out in early 2007.