Paul Motian, Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano played a spectacular set at the Vanguard last night. I loved the Bird references on the man's birthday -- thanks Joe.
Paul Motian's distinct style isn't my favorite, but he's someone I'll always go see, especially at the Vanguard, because he leads such great groups. This one, of course, has played as a unit for about thirty years. The last time I saw Motian was a few months ago with the similarly base-less trio of Motian, Jason Moran and Chris Potter. Paul Motian can be fairly heavy handed on his kit, and uses a setup that emphasizes crashing, metallic sounds over much else (the rivets in his ride cymbal, for instance, ensure that ever-present clang). To me, that kind of playing, combined with his loose conception of the drummer-as-timekeeper, seems to call for a bass, first for a rhythmic frame of reference, and second, for a fuller, more grounded sound to inject a bit of dynamism into the band's overall tone.
No matter, these guys don't need it. Motian didn't need it with Potter and Moran either. This trio's strength, to me, is not in their forward drive, but in their vertical construction of thick sound on top of thick sound, or jagged rhythm on top of jagged rhythm. They create wonderfully elaborate musical landscapes and can build a lot of tension for a long time that way. It has you fiending for a resolution, but not a simple harmonic resolution; more like a deliberate, brick by brick deconstruction of whatever musical house they've just as painstakingly built. Bill Frisell is especially adept at that sort of construction and deconstruction, as he does it solo with his myriad loops and effects. He didn't use too much of that last night, but those pedals were just a kick away the entire set.
A great set.