The sum total of the nuanced, elliptical lyricism at the heart of Paul Motian's compositional method can be heard in the opening seconds of "Osmosis Part III," the first track from I Have the Room Above Her. Recorded for ECM -- with producer Manfred Eicher, guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano -- this date is Motian's first as a leader for the label in more than 20 years. This is the same team that recorded the seminal album It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago in 1984. At that time, Lovano and Frisell were just beginning to establish themselves as bandleaders though they had each recorded under their own names. The weight placed on each member of this band is tremendous since standard rhythmic and harmonic anchors such as bass and piano are absent. Instead, melody, spatial dynamics and a sense of expressionistic harmony become the triad on which these group interactions are built. Motian's tunes dominate the set and rightfully so, they bear the mantle of improvisational adventure -- particularly in the aforementioned "Ocmosis III" a fine revisitation of "Dance" from his 1977 album of the same name, the utterly beguiling contrapuntal swing in "The Riot Act," and an outside yet texturally lyrical exploration in "The Bag Man." The title track by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein from the film version of Showboat is utterly lovely; it sings on the tags and refrains, while keeping everything in balance as Motian's cymbal work offers support while ushering in each change. The other cover is Thelonious Monk's "Dreamland," which closes the album. Motian began his career playing with Monk and the pianist/composer's lasting influence while not obvious is nonetheless pronounced. Motian's approach to the rhythm and cadence in the tune is an independent one, he hears on the underside and urges his soloists -- particularly Lovano here -- to explore the shadowy harmonics underneath the tune's framework. Motian dances the tune on his kit, floats it, nearly suspends it and flows its fancy through his frontmen. I Have the Room Above Her is exactly what one would expect from Motian, a painstakingly realized effort that creates a virtual poetic of the measure between the adventure of jazz as creative music and the emotional depth and dimension that convey what is beautiful resoundingly.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek