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"If you ain't got it in you, you can't blow it out."
— Louis Armstrong

Monday, August 23, 2010


As a critic, I'm always making and revising a "best of the year" list in my head.  I don't have a number I'm wed to—top ten, top dozen, whatever—but simply have a "I'll know it when I hear it" attitude.  Certain discs are keepers.  I know I'll still be listening to them ten (or a dozen or whatever) years down the road.

The latest from drummer Paul Motian, Lost in a Dream, is one of those recordings.  My review is up today at PopMatters.

Chris Potter on tenor
This is a trio recording, live at the Village Vanguard, with Motian quietly sculpted drumming, tenor saxophone from Chris Potter, and Jason Moran on piano.  It is a wonderful mix of musical personalities.  Potter is keening and lyrical, muscular but still plenty tender.  Motian, as he always does, contributes drumming that is less pure timekeeping than it is an ingenious coloration of the space around the tunes.  And Jason Moran—playing here in a Motian group for the first time—is pure revelation.  His strong left hand makes a bass player unnecessary, and his inside/outisde sense of improvisation makes every tune a thrill.

Most of all, Paul Motian is a great composer.  Nearly all the tunes here are ballads (with just one standard, Cole Porter's "Be Careful It's My Heart"), and they are a mixture of new and older.  This recording reinforces how singular and lovely Motian's melodic sense is.  "Blue Midnight" and "Cathedral Song" are standouts of the first order.  Other musicians should start covering Motian songs to bring them into the standard repertoire.

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