7 September 2011

Uncanny beauty

Paul Motion is as long-standing in jazz as I can imagine and I was delighted to find he was playing at Village Vanguard on a night that I was in NYC in a trio format with Ben Monder and Jerome Sabbagh. Again I find myself stunned and delighted with the beauty in a music that I only touch in understanding. I can hear the roles and sometimes the methods, but I can’t imagine the distance you go to play like this. I wonder from the books whether it should work but it so obviously does. These drums that are so sparse and jagged and seemingly outside time. The sax that explores pitch and intervals but always tonally. This is not a music of alterations or substitutions, at least not that I heard from the sax. And guitar that plays with more dissonance although from within the chord, from extensions, in counterpoint with single note runs or chordal melody, finger-picked or plectrum plucked, always mildly echoed and just once overdriven and another time more wildly effected with ringing harmonics. I first guessed that most of the tunes were originals with chordal movements that were intriguing enough of themselves to support this and still sound contemporary. These tunes were jagged or balladic or call-and-responsive, and at least one seemed to me as unlikely chunks of melody that converged strangely but successfully. But they also played several standards, Good morning heartache and Sophisticated lady, so it’s not just the structure or harmony of these tunes that makes this such a unique and beauteous music. I guess it’s that sense of time that floats but also it’s an uncanny anticipation that I came to hear later in the night, during the second, repeated set. BM was reading, and yet he seemed to perfectly predict some of JS’s lines and certainly PM had been doing that all night with both the other players. Perhaps it’s also the lack of bass that’s part of this airiness of time, not just PM’s drums that are so free from the duties of time-keeping. I don’t really know how or why it works, but I can feel it does. Idiosyncratic or iconoclastic, perhaps; unique, probably; impressionistic, I guess so. Whatever else you may say, these were two sets of deeply intriguing and moving music and I’m so glad I got to hear these two wonderful sets.

Paul Motion (drums) led a trio of Ben Monder (guitar) and Jerome Sabbagh (tenor sax) at the Village Vanguard.

There were no pics during the performance and I’m told PM doesn’t like photos, so nothing of him, but I came across Ben and Jerome at the bar and here they are. Hello also to bartender and drummer Ryan Cavan. He’d been to Australia on tour with an R&B outfit, The Healers, and had a great time, a memorable gig in Canberra with a capable support band, and been feted with interviews on ABC666. How small is this world these days? Hello also to Dan Tepfer whose face I was sure I knew.

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