The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint and Soul Note
Between 1983 and 1992, drummer and composer Paul Motian recorded six albums as a leader for the Soul Note label. Three of them (The Story of Maryam, Jack of Clubs, and Misterioso) featured a quintet that included saxophonists Joe Lovano and Jim Pepper, guitarist Bill Frisell, and bassist Ed Schuller; two were duo albums with pianists, one (Notes) with Paul Bley and the other (Flux and Change) with Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi (not Bley, as erroneously indicated on the back of this box set). The sixth, One Time Out, was a trio album with Frisell and Lovano. This nicely priced box brings together all six albums, each of them in a cardboard sleeve that duplicates the original LP packaging. This approach renders the sleeve notes rather hard to read, but it also nicely defines the context of each album and makes each one's individual identity clear, which is a plus. While Motian's love of the music of Thelonious Monk is clear -- Monk compositions are scattered throughout many of these albums -- most of the compositions are Motian originals, and they tend to be rather abstract; Frisell's guitar veers from free-and-skronky to ethereally lovely at a moment's notice, as do Lovano and Pepper on the quintet outings. His duo album with Pieranunzi follows a suite format, each of the three suites comprised of a mixture of standards and what appear to be largely improvised originals; the lovely but demanding duo album with Bley is more formally structured and consists mostly of Bley compositions along with a smattering of Motian tunes and Carla Bley's "Batterie." The trio album is perhaps the gentlest of the six, though it has its challenging moments as well (particularly on the rather forbidding "Morpion"). But every one of these albums is well worth hearing, and at a package price of roughly $7.00 per disc, the box set is a treasure trove for fans of Motian, Frisell, or Lovano.