Paul Motian


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Bop snobs can be quite rigid and dogmatic when it comes to jazz drumming; if you aren't playing like Philly Joe Jones or Ed Cobb circa 1957, they'll insist that you're a heretic who is in desperate need of repentance. But Paul Motian has never been taken in by such dogma; the veteran drummer likes to keep his options open, and he hasn't been afraid to hurl himself into a variety of jazz situations. Europe is essentially a straight-ahead hard bop/post-bop date, and yet, it isn't necessarily an album that jazz purists will be comfortable with. That's because Motian doesn't stick to the type of all-acoustic format that purists expect. Anders Christensen is heard on electric bass exclusively, and the two guitarists (Steve Cardenas and Ben Monder) don't shy away from amplification. So even if Europe isn't quite fusion, it is straight-ahead jazz with an electric outlook. Purists will approve of the songs -- Motian tackles material by Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Tadd Dameron -- but they are likely to carp about the way they are played. For those who aren't dogmatists, however, Europe has a lot to offer. Motian's lack of dogma is refreshing, and songs that were written during the bop era sound perfectly natural on electric instruments. To his credit, he doesn't insist on sticking to standards that jazz fans have heard time and time again. Motian often picks lesser-known pieces by well-known artists (such as Parker's "Birdfeathers" and Monk's "Oska T"), and the only song that has been done to death is Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now." The drummer also interprets Herbie Nichols' "2300 Skidoo," acknowledging one of jazz's unsung heroes. Europe is a solid effort that will please those who admire Motian's flexibility and open-mindedness.

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