Monday, December 12, 2011

Two more Paul Motian memorials

This time from someone who actually knew him and played with him, Ethan Iverson. Here's the introduction:

"Who was Paul Motian? A bald white guy without proper technique? One look at his trademark grip, choked way up on unusually thick sticks, and many dismissed him as a charlatan. His off-and-on ride cymbal, although accurate as a metronome, had a bizarre spacing in the skip beat. For those who believe jazz drumming is bound by certain parameters, Motian was the ultimate enigma, perhaps even an insult.

Yet Motian had a deep relationship to tradition. Those baseball bats were Oscar Pettiford’s idea. In 1955, at Small’s Paradise in Harlem, the legendary bassist looked over at Motian’s small sticks and said, “What are you playing with? Are you a drummer or aren’t you?” The next day Motian went out and got the biggest drum sticks he could find.

Thelonious Monk was another mentor. Both Monk and Motian have something of earlier jazz in their rhythmic feel (as he got older, Motian’s phrasing on the hi-hat sounded more and more like a drummer from the 1940’s), and when Motian was about thirty, Monk gave him invaluable advice on his ride beat. At that age, most professional drummers would be unwilling to take instruction on their right arm, but Motian was still learning.

Indeed, he was arguably the most profound late bloomer in jazz history. It’s been said that Motian on the first Bill Evans album from 1956 was “Max Roach without any chops,” an unfair characterization that holds a kernel of truth."

Go read the enire piece.

I also came across a brief notice from Chick Corea:

"Paul set a very high standard of integrity as a human being. He kept his own counsel, communicated only when he chose to, played only the way he heard it and felt it, lived the way he chose in a society whose norm was quite different. He managed to accomplish the difficult feat of being completely himself."


Anon said...


I was lucky enough to see the trio w/ Greg Osby and Masabumi Kukuchi, just before Motian's death. And by lucky enough, I mean so very lucky. Seeing Paul play was one of this instances where live experience makes all the difference in the world. I'm not only talking about technique (which I considered very "proper," if only for it's being old school), but for sound, approach, conception. Recordings don't do some music justice.

Anonymous said...

How could many have dismissed him as a charlatan? Paul Motian was pure as gold, original and honest as a angel! Listen and you'll hear all of that in everything he ever played. He'll be missed but forever enjoyed when hearing him. Certainly by me!

Rob Peters
The Netherlands

Todd Bishop said...

That's great, Brad- it's true- a live set is the true medium, and unfortunately I never got to see him play. I do love the stuff he recorded with Kikuchi.

Rob- Yes- being a charlatan means pretending to be something you're not, and I've certainly never heard him accused of that.