Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Motian/Lovano/Frisell - 9/6/09

Reviews of other sets in the two week run of this group at the Village Vanguard have been popping up around the Web, including posts from two of the best in NYC, Nate Chinen and Fred Kaplan. Since these guys do a good job putting the trio in context and talking about what makes them special, I thought I would just throw in a few notes about the set I saw, the early set from the final night of the run, Labor Day Eve.

The set seemed to hew to the format (mentioned in the Chinen piece) typical of this group and, I think, many of Motian's groups, mostly Motian originals with a Monk tune (in this case, I think it was "Epistrophy") and a standard (I couldn't ID it). I more I hear his tunes, the more I appreciate Motian as a composer. They often feature long, twisting heads, sometimes with a vaguely "Eastern" (or even Middle Eastern) feeling. On Sunday, many tunes were taken at fairly slow, ballad-y tempos, allowing the trio to sustain a beautiful, dreamy atmosphere for much of the set. The full house was mesmerized. (If this particular mood, this spell, could be reduced to a written formula or recipe - which it can't - Paul Motian's cymbal work would have to be listed as a main ingredient.)

One moment where the spell was momentarily broken is worth noting. As one of the tunes came to a close, the music gradually fading to nothing, Frisell must have bumped something or hit the wrong pedal, inadvertently producing the very specific sound of an amp with a high reverb setting being kicked. With a sheepish look, he said one word, "thunder", which broke up his bandmates and the audience.

I've been excited to read reviews from other sets because I know from my limited experience hearing these guys live and on record that they can hit it out of the park a bunch of different ways. When I saw them last year, they explored some of the more thorny, almost dissonant places they can sometimes get to. An hour long set isn't enough time for them to show all their sides, which is why I'm sorry I caught only one set.


I've been negligent about posting live music reviews lately. I've seen some good stuff, even started writing some pieces, but haven't posted much. More to come soon, including one of the best sets of music I've seen lately, Eric Revis at the Jazz Gallery.

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