Paul Motian, Chris Potter, Jason Moran – Lost In A Dream – ECM

by | Mar 22, 2010 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Paul Motian, Chris Potter, Jason Moran – Lost In A Dream – ECM 2128, 57:25 [3/9/10] *****:

(Paul Motian, drums; Chris Potter, tenor saxophone; Jason Moran, piano)

Paul Motian, as a drummer and as a songwriter, has rarely gone in for bombast. From his work with Keith Jarret starting in the sixties through his career as a bandleader starting in the early seventies on ECM, Motian has opted for a softer sound pallet, giving him a wide range of rhythms and tones to experiment with and use to re-imagine classic songs. On his latest release for ECM, Lost In A Dream, he explores some of his old material as well as new tunes, often subtly playing against the balladic nature of the material. For this task he has assembled a new trio including saxophonist Chris Potter, with whom he worked in the Electric Bebop Band, and pianist Jason Moran, who are both adept at working within the framework a consistently challenging and innovative leader like Motian creates.

On the first track, Mode VI, Potter opens with lyrical playing. He refuses to fall into any one repeating rhythm, but rather freely traces the edges of the song’s melody. Motian is characteristically light, playing small bursts with his brushes, more reacting to Potter than creating his own rhythm. About mid-way through the tune, Moran plays a beautiful, slightly disjointed solo.

Moran‘s intro for the second track, Casino, is astonishing. He plays the main melody without rushing at all, moving through it almost at a monotonous pace, while subtly providing his own coloring with chords from the low-end of his piano. Potter eventually comes in and plays circular phrases, winding tightly around the increasingly dramatic and frightening melody. The strength of Potter’s presence on this track, both in its ringing tone and high volume, is a testament to his performing power because Lost In A Dream was recorded live at the Village Vanguard.

Motian makes his presence known on the title track, Lost In A Dream, creating an off-kilter but still slightly funky rhythm. Moran’s playing compliments the unusual pacing, while Potter plays against it with long flowing phrasing. The clash of the two sounds has a rich complexity for the ear, and there is a beautiful moment around the two minute mark when Moran moves into the foreground and the whole band gels into a powerful crescendo.

Another standout track is Blue Midnight. Potter and Moran have wonderful interaction on this song, played as a straightforward ballad. Potter again takes the lead in the early going, his melodic lines arching quickly then slowly descending. The pauses in Potter’s phrases give the listener a break from the strong contrasts of his playing, allowing the emotion to sink in before Potter begins again. When Moran takes the reins the mood darkens and the whole ensemble slows down. Motian agitates the rhythm slightly, persistently playing against his band by quickening the pace during their most lyrical moments.

For Birdsong Potter adopts a breathier tone, and his playing changes entirely as a result. The peaks of his phrases are no longer as intense, and he holds out notes and melodic lines for much longer. Moran also gives his phrases more time to ring out and resonate. The physical space of the Vanguard is the most evident on this recording, as the band gives the sound space to reverberate.

On the seventh track, Ten, Motian powers the higher energy rhythm. Motian’s trademark style is so tight that he creates a wave of continuous sound which rises and falls, with his cymbals always slightly vibrating. Moran responds by adding more of a be-bop twinge to his playing, and he constantly undercuts the rhythms he builds up. Around the three and a half minute mark  Potter lets loose with his most visceral work on the record.

Drum Music, perhaps the best track on the album, is obviously a chance for Motian to show off, but instead of wailing away, he stays in character and keeps his band on edge. His bass drum periodically comes in without warning and strikes up an attack rhythm for a few seconds before fading away. Moran responds by sounding like he’s the soundtrack for a high-stakes heist film.

Lost In a Dream is a tremendous album which delivers on what Motian fans have come to expect. While by no means an emotionally cold album, Motian takes his tunes in a cerebral direction which challenges both his band mates and his listeners. The fact that Potter and Moran rise to the challenge so well pushes this album from good into great and makes it a must for any Motian or ECM fan.

TrackList: Mode VI, Casino, Lost In A Dream, Blue Midnight, Be Careful It’s My Heart, Birdsong, Ten, Drum Music, Abacus, Cathedral Song

– Ethan Krow

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