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Paul Motian Trio 2000+Two

Paul Motian has never been quite so stunning a bandleader as he was an ensemble drummer, playing with guys like Bill Frissel and Bill Evans in the late 1950s. On his latest disc, Live at the Village Vanguard, one wishes fellow musicians Chris Potter, Larry Grenadier, Greg Osby, and Masabumi Kikuchi would do as much for him as he does for them. Not to criticize the individual players. Osby's alto sax has a lovely, limpid tone. The man's obviously interested in exploring the rebop wilds. Potter's tenor playing is plenty fleet-fingered, and bassist Grenadier's got a quirky, minimalist sense of counterpoint that comes off like a fun, dour commentary on Potter's wilder flights. Keyboardist Kikuchi occasionally sounds like he's fallen asleep, but that's all to the good. Pictures do need their frames. The problem is this: These guys sound like they're phoning it in from separate bands. I'm not talking about atonality — though there's some of that in here too, and fine atonality it is — but collectively, the music cranked out by Paul's Trio+Two seems to lack a sense of purpose. There are too many narratives in this noise and not enough consensus. Kikuchi and Grenadier seem to be after something lyrical and bucolic; Osby wants to make you cry. Maybe Chris Potter wants to get laid. Paul Motian is back there someplace, playing loose and gorgeous grooves that don't count time so much as melt its measures together, and it's like he's powering a steam engine to nowhere. This is a many-flavored jazz, accomplished bebop with well-placed moments of free-jazz abandon. But even when you're alone with this disc, a glass of wine, and your stereo, it doesn't seem to want to talk to you.

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Brandon K. Thorp

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