“The trick is to know when to give it up, when to have patience, and when to work things out.“ Paul Motian, (spoken by John Voigt on track one of “the-music-of-paul-motian-and-spontaneous-compositions-by-josh-rosen-and-john-voigt.)
John Voigt is an outsider among outsiders. His music often comes from places most people don’t even know exist. He doesn’t play his instrument like the obliging ass in the orchestra chair, but like a man going to bed with his wife. He knows all the scales but ignores them in favor of a patient spontaneity that pierces a few clouds and calls down the thunder. So his work with Josh Rosen, exploring and improvising on the compositions of Paul Motian, may surprise some of his fans. To be sure, there are passages of wild, ecstatic exploration….but much of his playing here is as delicate and introspective as a Gary Peacock or a Scott LaFaro.
You can listen to the entire album here……
Paul 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). His compositions often reflect the influences of those masters.
There are passages in “one time out“ that sound like Voigt is goofing on the silly idea of a walking bass….ony it isn’t walking, but running, and it isnt the runner that is running, but three dimensions of a sidewalk all around him. “the cathedral song“ is an intoxicating piano reverie that finds voigt in a subtle delicate position of support for pianist Josh Rosen.
“Kalypso“ sounds like the kind of piece Motian might have played behind the drum set with Paul Bley in 1962, but Rosen has a bolder touch than Bley, aggressive but never intrusive. “Jack of Clubs“ displays that splayed finger jabbing that Monk made famous. Voigt approximates that technique on the bass. “Johnny Broken Wing“ is a simple chordal ballad that keeps the listener off balance with its unexpected dissonances.
“Story Teller“ is a strong showcase for Voigts bass that translates the piano lines into another language, but then the piano goes on a tirade if its own. “Once Around the Park“is a romantic trot through Central Park that dodges a few trip wires and fends off a dissonant mugger.
But these are just a few of my impressions of some of the offerings here. Lets turn to the more knowledgable voices of Voigt and Rosen on their encounters with Paul Motian and his compositions.
“Over the sixty years of playing with many great musicians, Paul Motian is on the top of my list. With him I discovered the better the player, the easier it is to play with them. The Motian experience for me happened back in 1976, but it might as well have been yesterday with the way I remember and feel it in my brain, heart and bones. Motian liked that concert so much that on his last published interview he said, “The music was incredible. I loved that stuff.” He gave the tape recording to Manfred Eicher at ECM for release, but alas like the “fish that got away” the tape disappeared! “Gone in the air,” as Eric Dolphy said. But at least I am left with the glorious honor that Paul Motian, such a grand master of the music, liked my playing. With him I also discovered what my musical goal truly was and should be: To feel that I am Flying when I play. Now that blessing continues with my playing with Josh Rosen. With Josh as with Paul Motian, it is magical. It’s like ESP, like the same muse playing through both Josh and me. Without the slightest idea of what I am doing or going to do, the right notes just come into my inner-ears, then down arms and into my fingers and out to the world through the strings of the bass. We are flying together in a musical cosmos. It can’t get any better than that. To call it free jazz or avant-garde jazz, or even “improvisation” doesn’t technically explain what we are doing. I call it Spontaneous Composition. We are automatically composing as we go along. I also call it “through-composed improvisation.” Purists go bananas at that and say it is a contradiction in terms: “You can’t compose and improvise at the same time.” I got news for them: it is what Josh and I do on this album. Put the CD on, fasten your safety belts and come fly with us.“ – John Voigt
“Paul Motian’s compositions propel us to musical discovery, tapping an inner innocence. The minimally notated tunes are gems of distilled musical essence, ready for exploration. Motian’s open suggestiveness invites us to free-play: a steady pulse or not? or both simultaneously! Harmony, hmmm… Some of Motian’s pieces are harmonized, some not. For us it’s wide open, and no harmony is a great choice too. There’s always melody – Motian’s sturdy themes carry the tunes, and guide our improvisations. A whole different approach than the customary “playing the chord changes” in jazz. Improvising on a melody frees the harmony, and returns us to the melodic roots of jazz. The album’s opening tune, “One Time Out”, contrasts Voigt’s steady walking bass with a jagged frantic piano melody. Somehow it works, the piano hands hurriedly stumbling over a calm bass line, both instruments finally merging in the last pips of the piece. The meditative “Cathedral Song” opens with a reverent bass statement of the opening theme, accompanied by freely moving pan-diatonic harmonies. Motian’s serene melody later becomes the piano accompaniment to a bubbling bass solo. Role reversal, which seems just right in this open music. These are the things that happen with Motian’s music. Listen for the vulnerability of “Johnny Broken Wing”, the cubist conversation of “Story Teller”, the rolling pulsations in “Dance”, the traces of Monk in “Nica’s Cat”, and the fragile beauty of “Victoria”, nails on string, music box piano, and the emotion of an inspiring melody. It has been a joy and an honor to realize these singular compositions of Paul Motian, with master improviser, John Voigt . Thank you for listening.“ – Josh Rosen
Enjoy the free listen on Soundcloud, and here is a link for purchasing the album.