The Village Vanguard At 75 Meets Paul Motian At 78

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You and the night and the Vanguard. John Rogers/ hide caption

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John Rogers

You and the night and the Vanguard.

John Rogers/

This week, the Village Vanguard celebrates its 75th anniversary, as Lara Pellegrinelli's All Things Considered feature reminds us. Hear, hear! Not only is it rare to see any New York establishment stay open that long, but the Vanguard happens to be that most embattled of businesses: the jazz club. And a damn fine jazz club at that. Quote:

Drummer Paul Motian made his first Vanguard appearance with the Bill Evans trio in 1957. Of more than 100 albums recorded at the club, Motian appears on at least eight of them.

"Good sound," Motian says. "Beautiful sound. You can hear everything. You hear yourself better. You hear the other musicians better. And it's totally acoustic."

If any musician ought to be able to speak for the place, it'd be Motian, the closest thing the club has to a house drummer. The man must play there at least four weeks a year these days, whether backing or leading; a glance at the schedule reveals he has been or will be there two weeks out of the first three months of 2010.

So it's appropriate that he's about to release a new album, recorded live at the Village Vanguard in early 2009. Lost In A Dream pairs him with two heavy-hitters in Chris Potter on saxophone and Jason Moran on piano. Their combined age is less than Motian's, but they have enormous capacity for spontaneous simpatico, and it's tested on this disc of ballads. If you know Paul Motian's underrated composing, you know that a ballad often means "a pretty melody and a loose set of guidelines for semi-rubato, somewhat-free improvisation." (Also, anyone else think his drumming is getting weirder and more interesting with time?) It all coalesces nicely on this leadoff track, "Mode VI", heard after the jump:



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"Mode VI," from Paul Motian/Chris Potter/Jason Moran, Lost In A Dream (ECM). Paul Motian, drums; Chris Potter, tenor saxophone; Jason Moran, piano. New York, N.Y.: Recorded Feb. 12-13, 2009.

Purchase: (Pre-Order)

The man makes a lot of records — and I can't think of any that aren't worth your time. Lost In A Dream comes out Mar. 9 on ECM. And if you're in New York, Motian, Moran and Greg Osby (!) hit the Vanguard Mar. 16-21.


Related At NPR Music: The Motian/Frisell/Lovano group, recorded live at the Village Vanguard. Also, Motian played with Bill McHenry's band in another set we recorded (with bonus downloads, plural). The Chris Potter Underground can be heard at the Vanguard too, as can Jenny Scheinman's quartet featuring Jason Moran.

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