Jan 2, 2012
"I'm not a showpiece drummer. ... I feel like I'm an accompanist. It's my sort of thing to make the other people sound good, as good as they can be. I feel like I should accompany them, and I should accompany the sound that I am hearing and make it the best that I can — that I can do." – Paul Motian.
The jazz world lost one of its greatest performers, composers and mentors earlier this year when Paul Motian passed away from complications of multiple myeloma. He was 80 years old.
Motian helped redefine the role of a jazz drummer through his collaborations with pianists Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. He went on to lead his own groups, most notably his trio with saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell.
Guitarist Steve Cardenas was a constant Motian collaborator, particularly as a member of the Electric Bebop Band (EBBB). I spoke with Steve last week as he remembered the great drummer. Click here to listen to that conversation, in which Cardenas tells stories of his times recording and touring with Motian, as well as discusses his recent projects as sideman and leader. Musical selections for the Podcast include:
Bill Evans Trio – “Jade Vision” from Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Motian played drums in one of the greatest piano trios of all-time, the Bill Evans trio with Scott laFaro on bass. This LaFaro composition comes from a June 25, 1961 date at the Village Vanguard in New York City, Sadly, this was the last performance of this seminal trio, as LaFaro was killed in a car accident ten days after the recording.
Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band – “Brilliant Corners” from Play Monk and Powell. Motian’s innovative idea to mix two electric guitarists (Kurt Rosenwinkel, Steve Cardenas)with two tenor saxes (Chris Potter, Chris Creek) and a solid rhythm section (Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Motian (drums)) comes to fruition on a set of classic tunes from the songbooks of bebop pianists Thelnious Monk and Bud Powell.
Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band – “Roundup” from Holiday for Strings. Cardenas wrote this tune for the EBBB, on what may have been their finest album. The band here is Paul Motian (drums); Pietro Tonolo (soprano & tenor saxophones); Chris Cheek (tenor saxophone); Ben Monder, Steve Cardenas (guitar); and Andres Christensen (electric bass).
Steve Swallow Quintet – “Medley #2 – Grisly Business/Unnatural Causes/The Butler Did It” from a BBC Jazz on 3 Broadcast on November 13, 2011 from Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Steve is a sideman for a number of top musicians, and this quintet, which will release an official recording in 2012, is among the finest. Recorded in a performance from BBC Radio are Steve Swallow (Electric Bass), Chris Cheek (Tenor Saxophone), Carla Bley (Hammond Organ), Cardenas (Guitar) and Jorge Rossy (Drums).
Adam Cruz – “The Gadfly” from Milestone. Cruz’s had an interesting take on Latin jazz sensibilities on this 2011 release. A veteran of Danilo Perez’ bands, drummer Cruz put together a band that included Cardenas (guitar); Chris Potter (tenor saxophone); and Edward Simon (piano, Fender Rhodes piano).
Steve Cardenas – “Roundup” from West of Middle. The same tune that Motian recorded with the EBBB was re-done by Cardenas on his CD last year. This trio version is done by Cardenas on guitar, Ben Allison on bass and Rudy Royston on drums.