Music News 5/26/22



There is a new biography of my favorite guitarist, Bill Frisell, BILL FRISELL, BEAUTIFUL DREAMER, and a new DVD documentary, MOTIAN IN MOTION, about Paul Motian, one of the most influential drummers in jazz history—whose trio Frisell was a part of for over 35 years. 


Frisell’s sound—open, spacious, focused on melody—is always identifiable. The variety of his own groups, and his many ongoing collaborations (many John Zorn projects, Burt Bacharach, Charles Lloyd, Lucinda Williams, Hal Wilner’s many tributes projects, to name just a few) mak 


Interspersed with the chronological review of in BILL FRISELL, BEAUTIFUL DREAMER (Faber, $30), author Philip Watson inserts short “listening sessions” where musical collaborators and fans listen with Watson to a particular album. These commentators include Paul Simon, Gus Van Sant, Hal Wilner, Rhiannon Giddens, Van Dyke Parks, the Bad Plus and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (a particularly knowledgeable fan). 



Paul Motian was the drummer in some iconic groups: Bill Evans’s early 1960s trio, and Keith Jarrett’s 1970s quartet. Later, Motian began to write mesmerizing tunes, and lead groups of his own, most notably the Trio with Bill Frisell on guitar and Joe Lovano on tenor sax.  


MOTIAN IN MOTION (Aquapio Films, DVD, $19.95) – Over the last ten years of his life, filmmaker Michael Patrick Kelly followed Paul around New York City, from his morning jogs in Central Park, to his many gigs and sessions. He dug up archival footage of Paul playing with Bill Evans, Charles Lloyd, and Keith Jarrett, and interviewed the many colleagues who played with him, including Frisell, Lovano, Chick Corea, Carla Bley, Greg Osby, Arlo Guthrie (Paul backed him at Woodstock!). 

The DVD includes deleted scenes, recording sessions and performances, and more interviews. 


In December, 1980, Frisell got a phone call from drummer Paul, and as he notes, changed his musical path forever. He became a member of Paul’s band—first a quintet, then evolving into the trio—who played together every year until Paul’s death in 2011.  


I think some of Frisell’s best work was with Paul Motian


I have a selection of the recordings that feature the trio of Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, and Joe Lovano (some with guests) 

I recommend them all very highly (all are on the Winter and Winter label, $18.99) 


MONK IN MOTIAN (1988) – All Monk tunes, with guests (on two tunes each) pianist Geri Allen and saxophonist Dewey Redman (a member, like Motian, of Keith Jarrett’s Quartet). 


BILL EVANS (1990) – Motian salutes his former bandleader, with guest, Marc Johnson—also a later member of the Bill Evans Trio. 


ON BROADWAY VOL. 3 (1992) – The third in the trio of fantastic albums revisiting the Great American Songbook. On Broadway Vol. 3 featured Charlie Haden on bass (also a Jarrett alumnus), and Lee Konitz on alto sax. 


SOUND OF LOVE: Live at the Village Vanguard (1997) – The Trio were at their best live, and this set, recorded in 1995, includes Paul’s originals, Monk and Mingus tunes, and the classic, “Good Morning Heartache.”  






David Virelles, NUNA (Pi, $16.98) – Cuban pianist David Virelles in a solo program—joined on three tracks by percussionist Julio Barretto. “Virelles cites as inspirations a wide range of pianists in the liner notes, from Frederic Chopin and Alexander Scriabin to the tributaries of African-diasporic music – both Black American and Cuban musicians, but also the Algerian pianist Mustapha Skandrani and Ethiopian Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou.” 



London Symphony Orchestra, NAZARENO (LSO Live, $15.98) – Simon Rattle conducts the LSO in a jazzy program featuring Osvaldo Golijov’s Nazareno, featuring the sister piano duo of Katia and Marielle Labèque; Leonard Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs; and Igor Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto, featuring the LSO’s Principal Clarinetist, Chris Richards.