Late last year, jazz lost one of the quiet guys, the subtle guys, the guys that only insiders are really in love with. But it hurts more because he wasn't a famous jazz musician. You mourn his loss more quietly—which in Paul Motian's case is exactly the right way. You know that for those cared about this music, the hole he leaves in the scene is huge. Particularly in New York, which is where he exclusively played in the last years of his life.
I brought my daughter to this gig, which makes it stick in my memory that much more.
As was typical of Motian over the last three decades of his art, he played very little straight “time”. Rather, he was engaged in a continual conversation with the guitar and tenor, which is to say that he was playing a conversational and independent counterpoint to his own compositions and arrangements. He played not just time and accents but contrasting and complementary melodies and rhythms, often seeming more sculptor of sound and texture than merely a “drummer”.
This was Motian’s revolution.
Like Miles Davis, Paul Motian was said to use silence very effectively in his art. But 22 November brought too much.
Read the rest of my tribute to Paul here: Remembering Paul Motian: The Drummer Who Quietly Shook Things Up