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Garden of Eden

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Album Review

Though recorded in 2004, the release of Garden of Eden marks the year in which drummer, composer, and bandleader Paul Motian turned 75. The Paul Motian Band is structured after his Electric Bebop Band from the 1990s. The group's unique approach to bebop is here — particularly in the bookends of the set with Charles Mingus' "Pithecanthropus Erectus," and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," at the beginning, and Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" and Charlie Parker's "Cheryl," at its end — the aesthetic focus has changed considerably to reflect Motian's own compositions. This band contains three guitarists — Steve Cardenas, Ben Monder, and Jakob Bro — and a pair of saxophonists — Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby — with bassist Jerome Harris accompanying Motian. Through the continuing wonder of stereo reproduction, Motian guides us to the place where we know who's playing what in which channel, left, right, and center. And the magic begins. With the exception of the opening cut, everything here is short — between two and five minutes. Though the music comes off as relaxed, somewhat gauzy and breezy; it nevertheless carries the pressure to deliver its various secrets in brief moments rather than long, drawn-out solos and engagements between players. The readings of the Mingus tunes carry all the knottiness of the originals, albeit with relaxed and breezy tempos. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is utterly moving as the three guitars all weave themselves around the saxophones and Motian and Harris keep steady, gently swinging time. On the leader's "Mesmer," the kaleidoscopic colors and tones that are possible with this kind of band are made self-evident. The simple nursery rhyme melody line — like a less-urgent Ornette Coleman line — asserts itself via a lone saxophonist, Motian, and Harris. The other horn enters, and they begin to engage and complement one another as the guitars enter the theme one at a time and wind, shimmer, and blur around the horns, ever-nuanced and elegant. Motian's drumming becomes more urgent and skittering, as does Harris' bass line, propelling movement against the repetition. In four-and-half minutes, the listener has been transported to another time and place. Other tracks here, like Jerome Kern's "Bill," written for the 1927 musical, Showboat, is made utterly pretty and wistful by the interplay between the saxophonists, who stagger each other in the lyric and chorus as guitars shadow them in various guises. The title track is the most speculative here, hinting at free improvisation as a skeletal melody asserts itself slowly and tersely. The tension created by Motian's around-the-beat drumming as the horns whisper their way through is quietly intense. Guitars nervously enter and fall away, adding minor-key shape and dimension to the proceedings. And though it threatens to explode at any moment, it merely swells and breathes cautiously yet purposely. The spirited yet laid-back swinging that takes place on "Cheryl," clocking in at just two minutes, brings the entire band full circle. It's irreverent yet accurate, it points to future looking, with empathic texture and dimension applied, to reading the music of jazz's past as a living composition as opposed to a staid, arid, reverence for history. Garden of Eden is more evidence — like 2005's I Have the Room Above Her — that Motian has been on a creative and compositional tear, and has been since the mid-'80s. This set is ambitious, full of humor, charm, warmth, and grace; it sings, whispers, talks, and at times it shouts; ultimately it offers listeners an intimate look at the complexity and beauty in the continually evolving soundworld of an artist who is a true musical giant.

Customer Reviews

Oh Sweet Lord.

The review written by iTunes is explanation enough, I think, for the mechanics of what makes this offering by Motian a Spellbinding one. All that I can add is that my hands are shaking a little after listening to what I'm sure will become one of my most treasured repeat listenings... Enjoy.

I hope you get the oportunity

I'm not certain, but I think I'm the reason this record, or at least part of, why this is on here. I filled out a request that they make it available. I actually bought it before they put it up, but let me thank you guys at Apple. This record really is phenomenal. The use of three chordal instruments (all guitarists), and panned hard left right and one down the middle creates one of the most lushly powerful harmonic playgrounds I've ever heard. This is one record in particular that I've heard that has really encouraged me to have faith in modern jazz music. The bassist is a stellar guy too! (he plays an acoustic bass guitar, but just nails the upright sound).

Garden of Eden

Great piece! Itunes, when will it be complete?


Born: March 25, 1931 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A masterfully subtle drummer and a superb colorist, Paul Motian was also an advanced improviser and a bandleader with a taste for challenging post-bop. Born Stephen Paul Motian in Philadelphia on March 25, 1931, he grew up in Providence and began playing the drums at age 12, eventually touring New England in a swing band. He moved to New York in 1955 and played with numerous musicians -- including Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano, Coleman Hawkins, Tony Scott, and George Russell -- before settling...
Full Bio
Garden of Eden, Paul Motian
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  • $11.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Jan 24, 2006

Customer Ratings