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CD Review: Paul Motian – Garden of Eden

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This has been quite a year for Paul Motian. The release of Garden Of Eden brings the count of records featuring Motian’s work to four, previous albums being I Have The Room Above Her, Bobo Stenson’s Goodbye, and Enrico Rava’s Tati.

All of this for a man about to turn 75 years old. Incredible. The stereotype that creativity can only peak early in adult life is pretty much shattered by Motian’s recent burst. You might think that somebody working early on with the likes of Thelonius Monk and Bill Evans would have nowhere else to go. Not so.

If pressed to employ a single word to describe Motian’s style of drumming, I might use ‘sparse’ … but that’s missing a whole lotta something. Perhaps a better word is: aware. Aware of the composition, aware of other band members (both as individuals and as a group), and most important: aware of time. Sure, a role of the drummer is to keep time. In Motian’s case, time is kept as an unseen border, a sort of musical spline finding its way through the other elements.

Always one to avoid convention, Motian formed his Electric Bebop Band back in the 90’s. While the material was bop-ish, the lineup, a piano-less group with two saxes and two guitars, was anything but. Paul’s current band has gone to three guitars. Traditional? Obviously not. A new standard? Just maybe.

It’s interesting to hear where this group takes the opening material, Charles Mingus’ “Pithecanthropus Erectus” and “Goodbye Porkpie Hat.” While fairly dark in coloration, there are some inspired bits, including multi-instrument unison runs, tenors circling each other, and a kind of guitar “group comping,” with guitars switching between rhythm and lead parts. I might tend to overuse the word “texture,” but here it is the perfect word.

As much as I love the introductory Mingus tunes and the closing pair of Monk’s “Evidence” and Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl,” it’s the original material that puts the alchemy of this band on full display.

The openness of “Mumbo Jumbo”, with its extended musings on the intro riff, brings to mind early Bill Frisell (bassist Jerome Han played on Frisell’s Rambler. Small world!) The slightly behind the beat guitar kicking off “Balata” somehow gives the song a very contemplative vibe. The saxes on “Endless” tug back and forth while the guitars stretch out the chords, fill in the cracks with chimey notes, and otherwise do their best to make the tenors sound great.

And, all the while, Paul Motian’s drums binds everything together in the most musical of ways. In fact, this recording is one that perfectly illustrates how music, not just rhythm, can emanate from the drummer’s chair. This is no more apparent than on the title track. Saxes trade parts, guitars fade in, drop a phrase or two and leave … and Motian provides something new during each and every measure. It’s not unusual for a jazz drummer to be tuned in to his bandmates. It’s quite another thing to make it seem so damned easy.

Paul Motian’s Garden of Eden is the kind of record to be played for the skeptical, “there’s nothing good out there anymore” type. This music takes a lifetime of experience and cooks it down to a nice, rich & tasty jazz reduction.

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)

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About Mark Saleski

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/cmpwrite/ Connie Phillips

    Editor’s note: This article now has another venue for success – and more eyes – at the Advance.net Web sites, a site affiliated with about 12 newspapers.

    One such site is here.

  • http://www.genericmugwump.com/ Aaron Fleming

    Sounds excellent man, your jazz-related knowledge never ceases to impress me!

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    thanks aaron. it’s called “sitting around on my ass and listening to too many records for most of my life”

    😉

  • http://jimsorrell.proboards33.com CaptainChurch

    Sunset in the Garden of Eden

    What really happened in the Garden of Eden?
    Most know the surface story of mankind’s descent into tragedy [Genesis 2: 7-25, 3:1-13]; but let’s read between the lines, spiritually, to understand exactly what happened, so as to protect ourselves better from our worst enemy’s deceptions.
    ……….The ‘Maker of All Things’ had given every growing thing’s fruit in the Garden to the Man and his help-mate (woman) to eat, “except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad”.—-> The bad knowledge had come from the sin of satan (self-centered pride) and the demons, when they lost their “day jobs”.
    Before that everything was good. To internalize (ingest) good with a little bit of evil in it (the tree’s fruit) would be like the poisoned fruit Snow White ate (it only takes a little to ruin the whole thing).
    Had Adam and Eve gone to GOD and asked Him to explain the knowledge of evil (bad), He would have explained it without it corrupting them (learning about evil without becoming evil)………….So, only one tree’s fruit was off-limits, because of the poison it contained. Adam and Eve must have gone by that “Tree of the knowledge of Good and Bad” many times, building their curiosity (no mistake, yet)………..On the day in question, satan attacked the more easily deceived of the two, the woman (as is still the case today), who should have been with her mate, helping him.
    It would be like the Black Knight going around to the back door of the Castle and gaining murderous entrance through battle with the Queen, instead of challenging her White Knight, warrior-trained husband………….So Eve was wandering by when she saw the snake reach up, take some fruit (“touch”), eat it, and start talking [Gen. 3:1].
    Now, would you casually respond if an animal started talking to you?? We would all most likely freak out and split the scene! Why didn’t Eve??…..If she had considered the relationship with her mate, {her 1st priority}, she should have gone to her husband Adam and said, “Dear, what is a talking animal doing in the Garden?”.
    After all, Adam was her spiritual head, and better inherently trained than she to confront this scene.
    She should have further said…..”Honey, I wasn’t even in existence when you named the animals; you’re the animal expert, and my leader…..so please deal with this for us”.
    She didn’t though; the first in a string of mistakes that led to sin, and spiritual death, that very day! [Genesis 2:17 and Ephesians 2:1 & James 2:26]…………..The “serpent” conned Eve into misquoting GOD (3:3 “touch it”). She added that because she had seen the snake touch the fruit.
    ……Remember, Eve’s attention was on the tree and it’s fruit, not on the snake and it’s possible deception; that is why she talked to this hybrid creature so casually. She gave no credit to the snake for talking like a human; she was led to believe that this was a result of the snake eating the fruit [3:6 “good for food”].
    So when the serpent said what satan was deceiving thru it, Eve believed the lie that she “would be like GOD and know what is good and what is bad”.
    ……….In her highly intelligent, yet naive logic, she figured that if the fruit of this forbidden tree could make an animal be like a human being, then it could make a human be like GOD. (Do you see the natural, logical progression, dear reader?).
    ………..What happened in the Garden was the first unnatural role reversal between man and woman that has plagued and poisoned the human race to this day! Eve was tricked, ate, died spiritually, and then turned and offered the murderous fruit to her husband, who ate and died spiritually too. (GOD is primarily spirit; so the best part of them, “other-centeredness”, died that day—> “in His image they were made”)…….satan was the first murderer, Eve the second; and this was passed on to Cain……..Eve knew she had died when she ate; but she handed it over to Adam knowing (“knowledge of good and EVIL”) what it would do to him [murder is defined by “intent”].
    Had she not gone from “others-centered” life to “self-centered” existence, she could have said to Adam —> ‘My husband, I have sinned and died….go to GOD and have Him make you another help-mate worthy of Him and suitable for you….and I will go somewhere separate and die physically, alone.’
    But she was now “self-centered”, the way we are all born (spiritually dead, as a result of that disaster) and only thought of herself, not wanting to be alone in this misery……exactly how satan first felt when he led 1/3 of the angels in rebellion, and then went after the human race when we were created (“misery loves company”, although it does no good).
    …………What is our lesson here? Trust GOD (His name is Jesus Christ now) and believe what He says without having to make all the same mistakes and sin ourselves! We will have no life if we keep choosing death!………………………………………..[Most quotes: GOOD NEWS BIBLE, Industrial Strength 1976 edition]

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