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ep1str0phy

Paul Motian Quintet

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Even having been exposed to the Paul Motian Quintet's unbelievable The Story of Maryam for some time now, I wasn't prepared to hear that group's recorded legacy in its (essential) entirety (Maryam + Jack of Clubs and Misterioso). The rest of the material on Motian's Soul Note box is fine, but that Quintet is one of the most distinctive and powerful jazz combos of the past 30 or so years. (For those unfamiliar, the personnel is Joe Lovano (ts), Jim Pepper (ts/ss), Bill Frisell (g), Ed Schuller (b), and Motian (dms).)

One thing that really strikes me about this music is what it isn't. The obvious point of comparison/the group's closest relative (barring earlier, shorter-lived iterations of the quintet) is the Lovano/Frisell/Motian trio--another band that is only really derivate insofar as it has become self-referential with time. The trio, however, is often times this delicate, gossamer thing, even in its hairier, more adventurous moments beholden to a kind of soft-focus experimentalism and dogged bitelessness. The Quintet, on the other hand, is angles and aggression, and even when it lapses into Motian's trademark sentimentalism--and a lot of this has to do with Frisell's swathy, delay/reverb-driven sound--it's a respite to weirder things happening elsewhere.

The quintet does what the trio does and, literally, everything it doesn't--there's a bass player (the committed although not-particularly-dynamic Ed Schuller) and a more aggressively experimental saxophonist/outcat (Jim Pepper), and Frisell plays with a dark edge that has been conspicuously absent from his more recent, Americana-tinged work. I can't stress just how insane and virtuosic this band gets. Motian is an almost total maximalist for what seems to be like the last time out, and it's kind of striking just how different and correct he sounds for playing music this consistently rhythmically engaged. The sax duo both throws into focus and compounds Lovano's normally-kind-of-detached harmonic virtuosity by having Pepper burst into hardcore early-Pharoah Sanderisms every couple of minutes. And Frisell--I talked to Fred Frith about this, and that man--who is a total master of extended techniques--has a deep respect for the Frisell of this vintage, who can somehow summon Derek Bailey, Hendrix, Jim Hall, and James "Blood" Ulmer--as well as something odd and unique--all at once. The fact that Frisell at the inception of his powers sounds so dizzyingly into creating this new idiom is a plus--it doesn't sound the slightest bit hackneyed, and it is genuinely, endlessly free sounding.

Anyway, that Motian box--if you don't have the Quintet music, pull the trigger on that sucker.

Edited by ep1str0phy

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Don't have the box, but do have those three albums. I haven't heard them lately, I will listen to them very soon.

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party time.

np: The Story of Maryam.

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elsewhere.

The quintet does what the trio does and, literally, everything it doesn't--there's a bass player (the committed although not-particularly-dynamic Ed Schuller) and a more aggressively experimental saxophonist/outcat (Jim Pepper), and Frisell plays with a dark edge that has been conspicuously absent from his more recent, Americana-tinged work. I can't stress just how insane and virtuosic this band gets. Motian is an almost total maximalist for what seems to be like the last time out, and it's kind of striking just how different and correct he sounds for playing music this consistently rhythmically engaged. The sax duo both throws into focus and compounds Lovano's normally-kind-of-detached harmonic virtuosity by having Pepper burst into hardcore early-Pharoah Sanderisms every couple of minutes. And Frisell--I talked to Fred Frith about this, and that man--who is a total master of extended techniques--has a deep respect for the Frisell of this vintage, who can somehow summon Derek Bailey, Hendrix, Jim Hall, and James "Blood" Ulmer--as well as something odd and unique--all at once. The fact that Frisell at the inception of his powers sounds so dizzyingly into creating this new idiom is a plus--it doesn't sound the slightest bit hackneyed, and it is genuinely, endlessly free sounding.

Couldn't agree more, coming across these recordings a couple years ago completely changed my opinion of Frisell. Great post.

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