Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano. Arne Reimer/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Arne Reimer/Courtesy of the artist

Live At The Village Vanguard

Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Joe LovanoWBGO

Motian, Frisell, Lovano in Concert at the Village Vanguard - 09/03/2008

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/94206624/94259057" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Drummer Paul Motian, guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano have become known as towering figures of modern jazz over the last 25 years. For nearly that long, the three multi-talented statesmen have also been playing together in an abstract yet immediately accessible trio. Regulars at the Village Vanguard, they united underground once again for the second night of a two-week stay, broadcast live on air by WBGO and live online by NPR Music.

Together, the Motian/Frisell/Lovano unit has no single sound identity; their aesthetic, however, was distinct and readily identifiable. Owing to their long-standing association, the three communicated with heightened perception, anticipating each others' curveballs and responding in kind. Rotating tune and improvisation freely, the trio seemingly wove in and out of meter and harmony, yet always emerged together when the mood shifted anew.

For fans accustomed to the group's internal logic, there was comfort in familiarity. Bill Frisell brought a full arsenal of techniques and effects to the fore; Joe Lovano commanded all manner of saxophone attacks; Paul Motian's wonderfully askew drumming made lurching accents into wholly natural punctuation. These textures floated over tunes from Motian, who has a knack for drawing beauty with spare remarks, and Thelonious Monk — a prime influence, Motian says — whose off-kilter genius translated perfectly to an already asymmetrical band.

It was a set on the verge of not happening. The previous night, Lovano was called away on an emergency — he finally left Cleveland at 3:30 p.m. before a 9 p.m. show. (Bill McHenry, who has recorded several times with Motian, proved a capable substitute.) But the three all made it to stage for showtime, not having missed a beat, quite literally.

Having appeared on literally hundreds of albums in more than 50 years — several of which were recorded at the Vanguard — Paul Motian is no stranger to jazz fans. His name first emerged in the wide public spotlight while playing in pianist Bill Evans' trio, another highly communicative and critically praised group; his percussion can be heard on that band's canonic recordings captured from the Village Vanguard in 1961. Since the 1970s, Motian has also led his own groups and recordings, and continues to appear at the Vanguard as both bandleader and sideman several weeks a year.

In 1981, Motian recorded a quintet album called Psalm, and called upon the young Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano to fill out his ensemble. The two Berklee classmates later joined Motian in a trio lineup, and all have reconvened from time to time ever since. In between trio appearances, Frisell and Lovano both achieved recognition leading scores of their own projects. Frisell's genre-crossing electric-guitar attack and Lovano's full-toned fluency have generated two catalogs as musically diverse as they are large.

Motian, Frisell and Lovano have recorded easily over a dozen unique discs as a trio or rhythm section since the 1980s, including at least one live at the Village Vanguard. Their latest, Time and Time Again, came out in early 2007.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Lee Musiker is featured in this episode of Piano Jazz. Steve J. Sherman/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Steve J. Sherman/Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Lee Musiker On Piano Jazz

The conductor and pianist performs "Fascinating Rhythm" and other standards with Marian McPartland.

Lee Musiker In The Studio

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/496086653/496125582" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Cecilia Smith is Marian McPartland's guest in this episode of Piano Jazz. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Cecilia Smith On Piano Jazz

The acclaimed vibraphonist solos on "Mourning Before Grace," a piece dedicated to her mother.

Cecilia Smith On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/495170641/495179845" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Leonard Feather. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Leonard Feather On Piano Jazz

The "Dean of Jazz Journalists," also a pianist, performs original blues tunes in a 1988 session.

Leonard Feather In The Studio

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/494127206/494221093" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Oliver Jones. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Oliver Jones On Piano Jazz

The Canadian pianist plays "Jordio" and "Three Little Words" in a 1990 session.

Oliver Jones In The Studio

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/493257788/493262078" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Walter Davis, Jr., on the cover of Davis Cup. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Walter Davis Jr. On Piano Jazz

The great bebop pianist joined Marian McPartland for this session shortly before his death in 1990.

Walter Davis Jr. In The Studio

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/492390537/492391202" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Don Cheadle stars as Miles Davis in the film Miles Ahead. Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

toggle caption Sony Pictures Classics

Jazz Night In America

Three Miles Ahead

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

On screen, ink, and stage with actor Don Cheadle, writer Quincy Troupe and trumpeter Keyon Harrold.

Three Miles Ahead

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/491558852/491559806" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Cecile McLorin Salvant and Sullivan Fortner. Mark Fitton/Philippe Levy-Stab/Courtesy of the artists hide caption

toggle caption Mark Fitton/Philippe Levy-Stab/Courtesy of the artists

Jazz Night In America

Cecile McLorin Salvant And Sullivan Fortner

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Two rising stars of their instruments duet at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Cecile McLorin Salvant And Sullivan Fortner

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/491556926/491558723" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Norah Jones. Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS hide caption

toggle caption Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Norah Jones On Piano Jazz

The smoky-voiced singer reinvents standards like "The Nearness Of You" in a 2003 session.

Marian McPartland In The Studio

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/491481080/491483313" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Marty Napoleon. Wikimedia Commons hide caption

toggle caption Wikimedia Commons

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Marty Napoleon On Piano Jazz

Hear the pianist, who once played with Louis Armstrong's All Stars, duet with Marian McPartland.

Marty Napoleon In The Studio

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/490624621/490631097" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top