[JPL] Three Stars Embracing One Sun-Warped Vision

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 11 17:59:04 EST 2007

December 7, 2007
Music Review | Bill Frisell, Ron Carter and Paul
Three Stars Embracing One Sun-Warped Vision 
The problem with most all-star aggregations is a clash
of competing egos or mismatched agendas. Not so with
the trio appearing at the Blue Note this week.
Composed of the guitarist Bill Frisell, the bassist
Ron Carter and the drummer Paul Motian, this is an
all-star group that inhabits an atmosphere of accord.
Instead of sparks it emits a soft, warm glow. 

This reflects the aesthetic of Mr. Frisell, who
functions here as the first among equals. In
performance on Wednesday night, he coaxed themes
forward with a gentle nudge. Several of his
compositions turned up in the set list, including a
calmly beautiful, deceptively simple étude called
“Throughout.” Even the choice of nonoriginals hewed to
his usual ideal: a sun-warped dream vision of the
American heartland, with unostentatious jazz

There’s a strategy of willful primitivism in modern
jazz — or maybe it’s resourceful naïveté — that Mr.
Frisell shares with Mr. Motian. (They have history
together, notably in a longstanding trio with the
tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano.) It’s not a model one
associates with Mr. Carter, who exudes steadfast skill
and erudition. So naturally there was some light
tension in the set, notably on “Monroe,” a country
waltz by Mr. Frisell. Approaching what amounted to a
drone, Mr. Carter fashioned a row of nimble patterns
and spidery runs. The only way this filigree would
have been more impressive is if it had better suited
the song. 

Elsewhere in the set, though, Mr. Carter sounded at
home. Often he struck an alliance with Mr. Frisell,
clamping down on a groove. Their coziness with the
sauntering pace of “You Are My Sunshine” provoked Mr.
Motian’s stubbornly contrarian side: using brushes, a
hi-hat and an unrelated shadow tempo, he created the
impression of an errant transistor radio playing
softly in another part of the room. 

At other moments the group interaction was more
conventional, with bass and drums advancing the
action. “Eighty-One,” a piece by Mr. Carter dating to
his tenure with Miles Davis (who shares a composer
credit), conveyed this straightforward cohesion. So
did a medium-brisk rendition of “On the Street Where
You Live,” though Mr. Carter sat out the verses at
first, letting his colleagues tease and peck their way

Still, the general vibe was more respectful than
playful, which made sense. The musicians were
performing as a trio for the first time since they
made “Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian,” an album
issued last year on Nonesuch. The music on the album
is handsome, well mannered and a bit sleepy, and those
qualities are largely on display again this week. 

But on “Introduction,” a sparsely hazy tone poem by
Mr. Motian, and then again on “Raise Four,” a
tritone-oriented blues by Thelonious Monk, the trio
flirted with a simmering intensity. Those were the
last two numbers, and they carried the tantalizing
suggestion that everything before them — the album
along with the rest of the set — had merely been
preparatory. With any luck, and some effort, the
engagement can still bear that out. 

Bill Frisell, Ron Carter and Paul Motian continue
through Sunday at the Blue Note, 131 West Third
Street, West Village; (212) 475-8592, bluenote.net.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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