Motian the Magician
Throughout the set (a mix of Monk, standards, and originals), Motian would be bashing with brushes, swirling with sticks, coaxing rhythms, sub-rhythms, beats that are out of rhythm, klook-a-mop tempos that seem to have no connection with what Moran and Potter are doing—and yet it all melds perfectly. Your foot’s tapping, your head’s bobbing, your alpha waves are cruising, the music is tight, loose, inside, outside, mellow, intense, all at once—what’s happening here? My friend, the pianist Frank Kimbrough, was in the audience. Frank is an astute musical analyst as well as a terrific musician; he played with Motian two years ago on an excellent trio album (called Play). I asked Frank if he understood how Motian does it, and, somewhat to my relief, he shook his head, no less awed and puzzled. “It’s magic,” he said. “I think he listens so hard, and he has such a complete grasp of his instrument, that whatever he does, it turns out right.”
Of course, Motian needs top-notch sidemen to do what he does at full throttle, players who know to keep going and how to keep up, and at the 9 pm set Thursday, Moran and Potter were in superb form. Potter occasionally looked dazed after a solo, as if he were thinking, “How did I do that, and how much longer can I keep this up?” This is the most inventive trio I’ve seen in a while, certainly the most equilateral in its triangulation. I hope they play together often and record an album very soon.