Monday, February 28, 2005

Album Review: Paul Motian Trio "I Have the Room Above Her"...

I must say that when I hear people mourning the passing of various Jazz greats, there tends to be a tone of mourning for not only the artists, but a bygone era. It's as if, to these people, Jazz died in '68 when Miles started fucking with electronics and ambience.

When it comes to me, I learned Jazz backwards. That is to say that instead of "Porgy and Bess", my intro to jazz was Miles's electric period stuff. The "Bitches Brew" era took all I loved about funk and rock and mixed in elements of Indian music and , in what I consider to be truly revolutionary, the implementation of ambience and vamps set to beats. If the last part of that sentence sounds familiar, it should. That description could easily be applied to today's electronic music and hip-hop. Such was the influence of Miles' hellish fever-dream of a musical career. It may be decades before we fully understand the influence of Miles.

Back to the present. Against the backdrop of clowns like Wynton Marsalis and Ken Burns (the Jazz doc-series does stop at Bitches Brew), who insist on a backward-looking, almost classical view of jazz as an idiom, there are what I consider to be many of the greatest jazz musicians in history. That's right, I said it... Jazz is not dead. It is, in fact, more alive than ever. Some of the great modern American composers are alive and breathing now and may be under forty years old! Ben Allison, Bill Frisell (his incredible "Unspeakable" just won him an overdue Grammy) and Joe Lovano all can be placed in this group.

So what happens when you take Lovano and Frisell and put them into a room (or a club) with someone with true golden-era creds like Paul Motian? It is nothing short of magical. I know that sounds really fucking cheesy, but it is not a stretch at all. There are moments of lucid dream-scapes contrasted with jutting triangular through-composed pieces. The interaction is seamless. From the opening track titled "Osmosis Part III", the listener is confronted with the brilliance of these three musicians. All three are at the top of the game. With Motian especially, it is noteworthy. This is a man who was a contemporary of Elvin Jones (god rest his swinging soul), Tony Williams , Coltrane, Bill Evans and anybody else who came into their own in the '50s Jazz scene. Here he is again, pushing the envelope of jazz. Pushing it places that Marsalis can only dream of with the help of two of the finest, most sensitive and intelligent players on this planet.

Who says jazz hit it's high point in the '60s? Or even that jazz means BeBop or any other style invented by the masters. This art form is in good hands, perhaps even some of the best hands in Jazz history.

No comments: