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Seventy-nine-year-old drummer Paul Motian makes his intentions known 15 seconds into the opener, "Mode IV," one brush slap on one drum head repeated, re-repeated, then the whole pseudo-echo empties out into a burbling cymbal brook. The concept of "backing" his bandmates — Jason Moran on piano, Chris Potter on tenor sax — doesn't apply, because Motian gave up backing other musicians before Moran and Potter were born. While never stuck with the free-jazz freak-flag reputation of Sunny Murray, Milford Graves, and other nontraditional percussionists, his de facto emancipation from keeping the beat on any given piece proved both influential and singularly rich.

Murray et al. pushed their way into the foreground more forcefully, and that's not wrong. But the Armenian-American Philadelphia native traces a parallel path with restraint, plenty of space, and endless sounds drawn from cymbals. He bought one of those cymbals before Moran and Potter were born. Who says married couples run out of things to say?

Cherish this record for Potter pushing lyricism through a slightly rough tone, for the power of a lighthouse and the intimacy of a whisper; for Moran evoking shadows in the street, phantasms that slink away before solidifying. Cherish how Motian dances around his partners, sometimes behind the pulse, sometimes asserting an alternate pulse. In his work with the classic Bill Evans Trio, the drummer found a way to melt into one with two others. If he can't do that here, he indelibly manifests a commentary, circling the two melodic instruments like an arch, rogue dancer supplementing a pas des deux.

I hope people don't find the whole thing too slow or too pretty. And you'll have to count out the time yourself. It sits ready for you when you are ready to come to it.

  • Album: Lost in a Dream (2010)
  • Artist: Paul Motian Trio
  • Label: ECM
  • Songs: (1) Mode VI (2) Casino (3) Lost In A Dream (4) Blue Midnight (5) Be Careful It's My Heart (6) Birdsong (7) Ten (8) Drum Music (9) Abacus (10) Cathedral Song
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