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This six-CD set, with recordings from 1972 to 1984, includes the albums Conception Vessel, Tribute, Dance, Le Voyage, Psalm and It Should’ve Happened A Long Time Ago. Paul Motian’s innovative drumming with the great trios of Bill Evans and Paul Bley had already assured him of a place in jazz’s history books, but Motian had not considered life as a bandleader until ECM proposed a recording session under his own name. “Conception Vessel” opened floodgates of creativity. Through these recordings we hear not only the evolution of several outstanding Motian ensembles and the birth of the enduring Motian/Frisell/Lovano trio, but also the growth of confidence of a unique jazz composer. In Paul’s music, memories of Turkish and Armenian melodies he had heard as a child were filtered through a love of jazz.
Why aren't there more recordings like Fly Away Little Bird? Perhaps it's because there aren't more musicians of this stature. The studio reunion of the legendarily experimental Jimmy Giuffre 3 in 1992 was reissued in 2002 on the French Sunnyside label and is a radical departure from anything the trio had done in the past. These studio apparitions of the band are their most seamlessly accessible while being wildly exploratory. In addition to the consummate improvisations and compositions by Giuffre (title track, a redone "Tumbleweed"), the tender meditations by Steve Swallow ("Fits" and "Starts"), and the bottom-register contrapuntal improves by Paul Bley ("Qualude"), this is a trio recording that uses standards such as "Lover Man," a radically and gorgeously reworked "I Can't Get Started," "Sweet and Lovely," and "All the Things You Are" to state hidden textural possibilities inside chromatic harmony. There is never the notion of restraint in the slow, easy, and proactive way these compositions are approached.
When one considers the instrumentation (alto, piano and guitar) and the personnel (Bob Mover, Paul Bley and John Abercrombie), it is not surprising that this date is full of thoughtful, chance-taking and often lyrical improvisations. Most of the selections are either duets or unaccompanied solos, and although there are some melodies, the music was pretty much all improvised on the spot. An intriguing set.