Monday, September 20, 2010

Listening jag: Motian, Malaby and related

For a while now, I've really enjoyed how Scott Tennent (author of the forthcoming 33 1/3 book on Spiderland and a fellow craw and Dazzling Killmen fanatic) documents and analyzes his listening habits. I thought I'd try something similar.

The guiding principle here is that I'm constantly on what I call listening jags (I've used "listening ruts" before too, but I think this works better), prolonged periods of immersing myself in the work of one artist or several related ones. Anything can trigger this: a new album release, a live show, a blog post. And once I'm off, I'm really off: For however long the listening jag lasts, I can hardly bear to hear anything other than the artist or artists in question (when listening is recreational and not work-related, that is). It's sort of like that "Once you get that taste" concept—I have a sound in my head and that's the only sound I want. Sometimes, the jags last a day, sometimes weeks; sometimes they're cyclical, e.g., I seem to find myself on an Andrew Hill jag every six months or so, and on a Cecil Taylor jag about once a year.

Anyway, I thought I'd give a little window into my current listening jag (the axis of which is the drummer Paul Motian) and how it developed.

1) I was reading this Destination: Out post on Joe Giardullo, which led me to this Giardullo interview on Paris Transatlantic by Clifford Allen. In the Q&A, Giardullo, who has often covered Paul Motian tunes, states: "That trio [Motian] had with Charles Brackeen and David Izenzon is the trio." I'm a huge fan of Motian, Brackeen and Izenzon, and while I'd heard this trio's output (one ECM record and some killer live stuff), I decided I needed to get deeper into it. So for a while I was deep into said ECM record by Motian, Dance, the live stuff linked above and another Motian ECM album, Le Voyage, which features Brackeen along with J.F. Jenny-Clark on bass.

2) I decided to go further with Motian, so I began spinning Keith Jarrett's American Quartet stuff and got especially into the album Byablue, on which most of the material is composed by Motian. I also became obsessed with the Jarrett/Haden/Motian YouTube clip discussed in my last post.

3) I delved further into the Motian discography, which led me to the ’80s albums on Soul Note, of which Steve Smith was kind enough to lend me two, Misterioso (still digesting) and the absolutely phenomenal The Story of Maryam. Both sessions feature Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell—who would of course stay on with Motian and fill out his signature trio—as well as the late saxophonist Jim Pepper and bassist Ed Schuller.

4) At this point, after I had spoken to him of my Motian jag, a generous brother-in-jazz (who shall remain anonymous) passed me a bootleg of a very recent (as in weeks ago) Motian gig at the Vanguard, which featured Frisell, and the saxophonists Mark Turner and Tony Malaby. I haven't written much about Malaby on this blog, but I truly love his playing, and I'm also a big Turner fan (as evidenced by posts on Fly and Billy Hart's quartet). This boot is a holy thing and I wish everyone could hear it.

5) At this point, a taste for Malaby sprouted as an offshoot of my taste for Motian. I recalled that the two of them appeared together on Malaby's Adobe, from 2004, so I got that and was instantly fascinated. Again, still digesting, but this record is definitely an obsession in the making.

6) I left Motian for a bit and moved further into the Malaby universe, checking out two fantastic records: last year's Voladores and Tamarindo, a Clean Feed trio date from a couple years back w/ William Parker and Nasheet Waits.

7) Then I looped back around to Motian (and Ed Schuller as well), spending a bit of time with Tim Berne's Mutant Variations.

What does all this mean? Nothing, other than that it demonstrates how my listening brain works. I have a certain sonic area in mind and I want to explore it fully. With Motian and Malaby there's something hard to pin down that binds them: this sort of ghostly, free-floating-ness. The Malaby band on Voladores is called Apparitions, and I think this fits really well re: what I'm looking for in jazz right now. I'm showing no signs of moving on from this jag: As I type, I'm already planning to load Adobe onto the iPod for the morning commute.

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