Paul Motian / Paul Motian Trio

It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago

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This trio, the root of the Paul Motian Quintet that also included the late Jim Pepper and bass player Ed Schuller, is among the most "songish" that ECM ever recorded. All three men are masters of understatement and heartbreakingly beautiful melodic invention, and also possess a collective well of deep lyricism in their improvisations. They had another thing in common, all having been sidemen for many years before becoming bandleaders in their own right. In fact, Lovano was only then, in 1984, beginning to consider himself a bandleader. There isn't a display of ego anywhere on this recording or the quintet's wonderful The Story of Maryam (Soul Note 1074). Motian is credited with all the compositions here, but it's obvious they come from the collective. While the title track that opens the record is full of the lilting melodic invention Frisell is well known for, it is actually the short sonorous lines that Lovano feeds to Motian that illumine the cut and give it its sense of open space and interval. "Fiasco" is a study in three part counterpoint: From Frisell to Motian to Lovano, the fury of the improvisation is tempered only by dynamic restraint and the intention on the part of the trio to hear the harmonics they are creating as microtones. Elsewhere, such as on "India" and the closer "Two Women of Padua," the tonal registers of the guitars and saxophone become the voices in "songs" offered up in different emotional and musical circumstances, but in the manner of singing nonetheless. Intervallic invention here becomes its own m.o. and, given the depth of melodic interplay, a fluid musicality is ensured. This is one of the finest recordings that came from ECM in the '80s. Paul Bley led another, which featured Motian and Frisell -- as well as John Surman. This set is made of the kind of music that made Manfred Eicher's ECM such a force to be reckoned with. It placed three musicians in a context that was comfortable enough to make them want to sing to one another.

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