This footage Jazz drum icon Paul Motian performing at the Village Vanguard with his trio on Sept. 19, 2005. The trio consists of himself Joe Lovano tenor sax, and Bill Frisell guitar.
Stephen Paul Motian was born March 25 1931 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The jazz drummer, first came to prominence in the late 1950s in the piano trio of Bill Evans, and later led several groups. Motian played an important role in freeing the drummer from strict time-keeping duties.
Motian became a professional musician in 1954, and briefly played with pianist Thelonious Monk. He became well known as the drummer in pianist Bill Evans's trio (1959–64), initially alongside bassist Scott LaFaro and later with Chuck Israels.
Subsequently, he played with pianists Paul Bley (1963–64) and Keith Jarrett (1967–76). Other musicians with whom Motian performed and/or recorded in the early period of his career included Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Joe Castro, Arlo Guthrie (Motian performed briefly with Guthrie in 1968-69, and performed with the singer at Woodstock), Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, and Don Cherry. Motian subsequently worked with musicians such as Marilyn Crispell, Bill Frisell, Leni Stern, Joe Lovano, Alan Pasqua, Bill McHenry, Stephane Oliva, Frank Kimbrough, Eric Watson and many more.
Later in his career, Motian became an important composer and group leader, recording initially for ECM Records in the 1970s and early 1980s and subsequently for Soul Note, JMT, and Winter & Winter, before returning to ECM in 2005. From the early 1980s he led a trio featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, occasionally joined by bassists Ed Schuller, Charlie Haden or Marc Johnson, and other musicians, including Jim Pepper, Lee Konitz, Dewey Redman and Geri Allen. In addition to playing Motian's compositions, the group recorded tributes to Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans, and a series of Paul Motian on Broadway albums, featuring original interpretations of jazz standards.
Despite his important associations with pianists, Motian's work as a leader since the 1970s rarely included a pianist in his ensembles and relied heavily on guitarists. Motian's first instrument was the guitar, and he apparently retained an affinity for the instrument: in addition to his groups with Frisell, his first two solo albums on ECM featured Sam Brown, and his Electric Bebop Band featured two and occasionally three electric guitars. The group was founded in the early 1990s, and featured a variety of young guitar and saxophone players, in addition to electric bass and Motian's drums, including saxophonists Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Chris Cheek, and Tony Malaby, and guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brad Shepik, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Steve Cardenas, Ben Monder, and Jakob Bro.
In 2011, Motian featured on a number of new recordings; Live at Birdland with Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden, Samuel Blaser's Consort in Motion, No Comment by Augusto Pirodda with Gary Peacock, and Further Explorations with Chick Corea and Eddie Gomez. Bill McHenry's Ghosts of the Sun was released - by coincidence - on the day of Motian's death.
Motian's final album as bandleader was The Windmills of Your Mind, featuring Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan and Petra Haden. Posthumous releases so far are Sunrise by the Masabumi Kikuchi Trio (with Thomas Morgan), released in March 2012 by ECM; Owls Talk by Alexandra Grimal (also featuring Lee Konitz and Gary Peacock) was released in July 2012.
Motian died on November 22, 2011 at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital of complications from myelodysplasic syndrome.