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Forces in motion,
This review is from: Paul Motian (Audio CD)
Boxed sets like this one are a great way for a label to repackage its back catalogue, especially as in this case it includes a couple of (in this reviewer's opinion) lost gems from the 1970s. So here we have the CONCEPTION VESSEL, TRIBUTE, DANCE, LE VOYAGE, PSALM and IT SHOULD'VE HAPPENED A LONG TIME AGO albums available in one hit.
It's the second and third that are those gems. Both of them feature drummer Motian in the company of tenor / soprano sax player Charles Brackeen, with David Izenzon and J.F. Jenny-Clark fulfilling the bass duties in each case. The level of understanding between the four men is exceptional, and the two bass players each bring an individual sensibility to the music. Izenzon contributed vitally to an Ornette Coleman trio in the previous decade, and he's surely up there with Gary Peacock, Barry Guy, William Parker, Henry Grimes and Charlie Haden as one of the most skilled bass players in the free and near free realms. Motian was of course one of the few drummers out there with a singular approach, while Brackeen, who manages the not inconsiderable feat of coaxing a highly individual sound out of both his saxophones of choice, is in this reviewer's opinion simply one of the most undervalued musicians around.....if indeed he still is around. "Kalypso" (on DANCE) is arguably unique in its combination of lightness of spirit with seriousness of purpose, and because it is it serves to highlight how musicians sometimes don't listen as deeply as they could, at least on record.
The trio of Motian, guitarist Bill Frisell and tenor sax player Joe Lovano as featured on the last album referred to above exhibits by comparison a different strain of dark romanticism. For me Lovano lacks Brackeen's focus, while his tone is a lot more generic, so I'm unable to hear much in the way of musical substance. Okay, so there's no mistaking Frisell's singular guitar work, but once the listener's grown accustomed to it there might well be little remaining of the sound of surprise.
All of this might leave potential buyers in something of a dilemma. I must admit to over-indulgently buying the set more or less exclusively for DANCE and LE VOYAGE while taking it for granted that there'd be other musical delights; as it happens there infrequently are over the course of what remains, but of the four stars at least two of them are for those two albums alone.