The standard songs from Tin Pan Alley have become too popular again. Bands and singers all over the world would grin out those ballade choruses as if the decades had kept the evolution of jazz totally untouched. The Great American Songbook, it seems, is choking on nostalgy and boredom.
The results turn out to be quite different, when Paul Motian's men take their trips to Broadway. In the German magazine Audio it could be read: "They are not aiming at the innocently swinging repetition of the familiar, but at the fresh and unusual". And Down Beat asked: "How is it that certain artists can transform the familiar into something unfamiliar, and with such delightful results?"
Evidently, Paul's devotion to the works of the American song composers is too sincere to leave them to sentimentality and indifference. Time and again he would set these melodies into a new illumination, thus destillating their beauty to make worn-out changes sound like they were fresh and unused. Under Paul's direction sound graphics come to life, structural sketches and ethereal frictions. Strange and ironical undertones melt with some far echoes from the jazz legends.
The song of Gershwin and Porter, Kern and Arlen, Berlin and Rodgers - much too often have they been over-scored to deadly degree. Motian's men take the other way and tend to under-score. They aren't afraid of reducing the band to a trio or duet when it seems to fit better. With all redundant elements removed, standard melodies awake to a totally new life. It's amazing to discover their modern character. as soon as they are translated into pastel textures, willful improvisations and surprising sounds. The usual tempos are everyday scorings give room for pure poetry. Paul Motian definitely is a sort of a sorcerer.
As a drummer, Paul Motian also relies on the spontaneous magic of his instinct. "I play more with sound and feelings than with any special technique", he told the Cleveland Jazz Report. Paul's matchless empathy has been appreciated by some of the greatest pianists ever. After his cooperation with the late Lennie Tristano Paul was the drummer with Bill Evans' Trio from 1967 to 1976. He has been working as a bandleader for 20 years.
Special guest on Broadway -Vol. 3 is 65-year-old alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, the true representative of Tristano's Cool School of 1949. His extremely abstract playing still would counter the inexorable logic of beats and bars, tearing the sax lines crosswise against the musical stream.. The duets with Bill (Crazy She Calls Me) and Paul (The Way You Look Tonight) show the pure wealth of Lee's masterly art.
"Lovano is a bob player with a predilection for free jazz" Gary Giddins wrote about the most soughtafter saxophone player on the scene today. Joe Lovano paid his dues in the big band of Woody Herman and Mel Lewis and certainly developed one of the most marked and complete horn voices in contemporary jazz. Challenged by each other's totally different approach, Joe and Lee exchangesolos vibrant of contrary perspectives and temperament.
Unmistakeably, the identity signal of Paul Motian's band is coming from guitarist Bill Frisell. The new possibilities in sound and function that he opened up during the last decade meant a revolution of guitar playing at all. The New York Times called him the guitarist, "who manages to wring something new out of the most-played instrument of the world". From Bill's architectural sense for composition this novel Broadway music gains its unexpected colours, jazzy contours and harmonic plains.
We find the band completed by Charlie Haden, one of the living legends of the bass. Charlie first left his marks as a pioneer of free jazz when he was a member of Ornette Coleman's early quartet. Later on he made jazz history togehter with John Coltrane, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Keith Jarrett, Carl Bley, Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny, and others. The phrasing and tone of his instrument has always been as courageous as Charlie's political engagement. He's been playing with Paul for 25 years.
- Original press text written in 1992
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