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Paul Motian, Jazz Drummer, Is Dead at 80


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#1 Yervant1

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 11:38 AM

Paul Motian, Jazz Drummer, Is Dead at 80

The New York Times
By BEN RATLIFF
Published: November 22, 2011

Paul Motian, a drummer, bandleader, composer and one of the most influential
jazz musicians of the last 50 years, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 80
and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was complications of myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood and
bone-marrow disorder, said his niece, Cindy McGuirl.
Mr. Motian was a link to groups of the past that informed what jazz sounds
like today. He had been in the pianist Bill Evans's great trio of the late
1950s and early 1960s and in Keith Jarrett's so-called American quartet
during the 1970s. But it was in the second half of his life that Mr. Motian
found himself as a composer and bandleader, with work that could be
counterintuitive or straightforward, runic or crowd-pleasing.

Stylish and alert - he wore sunglasses in the dark and laughed often and
loudly - he worked steadily for decades, and for the last six years or so
almost entirely in Manhattan. He had the support of the record producers
Stefan Winter and Manfred Eicher, who released his music on the labels
Winter & Winter and ECM, and of Lorraine Gordon, the proprietor and
presiding spirit of the Village Vanguard, who booked him many times a year,
either in his own groups or those of others. (In his 70s he grew tired of
traveling, and anyway, he said, he preferred the sound of his drum kit at
the Vanguard.)

The many musicians he played with regularly included the saxophonist Joe
Lovano and the guitarist Bill Frisell, with whom he had a working trio; the
pianist Masabumi Kikuchi; the saxophonists Greg Osby, Chris Potter and Mark
Turner, 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 others, from developing players to old
masters.

For nearly 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 of his youth by the likes of Bud Powell,
Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus.

Stephen Paul Motian (he pronounced his surname, which was Armenian, like the
word "motion") was born in Philadelphia on March 25, 1931, and reared in
Providence, R.I. In 1950 he entered the Navy. After briefly attending its
music school in Washington, he sailed around the Mediterranean until 1953,
when he was stationed in Brooklyn. He was discharged a year later.
He met Evans in 1955, and by the end of the decade he was working in a trio
with him and the bassist Scott LaFaro. That group, in which the bass and
drums interacted with the piano as equals, continues to serve as an
important source of modern piano-trio jazz.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s Mr. Motian played with many other
bandleaders, including Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Mose Allison, Tony Scott,
Stan Getz, Johnny Griffin and, for a week, Monk. After leaving his
partnership with Evans, he worked steadily with the pianist Paul Bley, whom
he often credited with opening him up to greater possibilities.
"All of a sudden there was no restrictions, not even any form," he told the
writer and drummer Chuck Braman in 1996. "It was completely free, almost
chaotic."

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Bley recalled: "We shared the same
philosophy, musically. He knew that what he was doing in the past was not
his answer. What he lived for was growth and change."

Then, and even more with Mr. Jarrett's quartet in the 1970s, Mr. Motian
moved away from swing-based rhythm; he improvised freely, or played off
melodic form. Eager to grow beyond percussion, he studied and composed on a
piano he had bought from Mr. Jarrett, and in 1973 he made a record of his
own compositions for ECM, "Conception Vessel," with Mr. Jarrett and others.
One of the last records he made with Mr. Jarrett's quartet, "Byablue"
(1977), consisted mostly of Motian originals.

But the old sense of swing never left, and it later became abundantly clear
again, whether he was playing an original sketch built on uneven phrasing
with gaps of silence or a root text of jazz like "Body and Soul." Sometimes
he would strip a beat to absolute basics, the sound of brushes on a
dark-toned ride cymbal and the abrupt thump of his low-tuned kick drum.
Generally, a listener could locate the form, even when Mr. Motian didn't
state it explicitly.

"With Paul, there was always that ground rhythm, that ancient jazz beat
lurking in the background," said the pianist Ethan Iverson, one of the
younger bandleaders who played with and learned from him toward the end.

Mr. Motian's final week at the Vanguard was with Mr. Osby and Mr. Kikuchi,
in September. "He was an economist: every note and phrase and utterance
counted," Mr. Osby said on Tuesday. "There was nothing disposable."
He is survived by his sister, Sarah McGuirl.

A version of this article appeared in print on November 23, 2011, on page
B19 of the New York edition with the headline: Paul Motian, Drummer and
Composer, Is Dead at 80.

#2 Zartonk

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 09:17 AM

RIP, jazz has lost a great musician.

#3 gamavor

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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:29 AM

I was lucky to see him in person at the Blue Note in New York few years ago. Great musician, esp. his earlier things were quite impressive. RIP.




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