Paul Motian Trio: I Have The Room Above Her (ECM 1902)

I Have The Room Above Her

Paul Motian Trio
I Have The Room Above Her

Bill Frisell guitar
Joe Lovano tenor saxophone
Paul Motian drums
Recorded April 2004, Avatar Studio, New York
Engineer: James A. Farber
Produced by Manfred Eicher

I Have The Room Above Her continues drummer-composer Paul Motian’s depth-journeying with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, who, in line with Motian’s free, integral thinking, compress coals into diamonds with every meeting captured on record. Here especially, they prove that, “power trio” though they may be, their power thrums beneath the flowers rather than shining down on them.

The lion’s share of this, the trio’s third outing for ECM, is comprised of new Motian material, although backward glances do lurk here and there. Among the latter, “Dance” is the quintessential blast from the past. Not only because it comes from Motian’s 1978 album of the same name, but also quite simply because of his youthful, euphoric playing. Thelonious Monk’s “Dreamland,” which caps the set, balances darkness and light with equal profundity—an affirmation of all things that resound. And then there is, of course, the title track, which in these six simpatico hands yawns into something far beyond its roots (in the musical Show Boat) and establishes a dark street scene in its place. As after-midnight stragglers enjoy the drunken air, a lone figure ambles his way through, slips into cold sheets, and dreams of a time when ill-fated hearts might beat as one. It is Lovano who evokes this lonely routine, swaying through the night with inebriated pall but also a hard-won beauty that burns in the chest like a star.

The greatest secrets of Room, however, can be found glistening in Motian’s “Osmosis Part III,” which begins the album as if midsentence yet brims with consummate sentiment. Frisell provides enchanting starlight by way of his tasteful electronic looping. Lovano, meanwhile, brings the pulse of the moon, and Motian the dance of its light upon water. There is savory thinking in this first encounter, and much more to be found in repeat listening, where the business of “Odd Man Out” (notable for Lovano’s channeling of Charles Lloyd) sits comfortably alongside the softer alloys of “Shadows,” and the percolating snare of “The Riot Act” (enhanced by computerized reflections from Frisell) funnels organically into the bluesy whimsy of “The Bag Man.”

Above all, it is the aching melodies that bloom widest. Be they the modal strains of “Harmony” or the shifting tectonics of “Sketches,” chains of notes seem to rain from Motian’s cymbals, even as his bandmates evaporate them back into cloud forms. As spoken through the anthemic qualities of “One In Three,” each theme leads listeners like torchlight through a cave. It traces archways of stone and glyph, only to find naked and inviting cause.

For as long as Motian walked this earth and spoke his rhythms true, he left few fuses as surge-proof as this. Part of an unfathomable circuit, it will forever be, running on an electricity all its own.

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