A couple of nights ago Bill Frisell‚ Ron Carter and Paul Motian wrapped up a week long run at New York's Blue Note. The decorated trio has been making the West Village landmark their home for the last few years -- rarely performing together anywhere else. It was a treat to see these three titans play together again.
A little background: Both Carter and Motian are in their seventies and are capital "L" Legends. Carter was most famously the bassist of the great Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960's -- one of the most celebrated bands in jazz history. He has kept busy since then‚ appearing on over 2‚000 albums. Motian has played drums behind everyone from Thelonious Monk to Bill Evans to Keith Jarrett. Both men are considered to be among the genre's most respected elder statesmen though neither seems to have any interest in slowing down or repeating the past.
Frisell‚ still in his fifties‚ is the relative youngster of the group. A one-of-a-kind guitarist‚ his style bridges the gap between a dozen or so genes including Americana‚ classical‚ folk and of course‚ jazz. Better known for some of his noisier and explorative work‚ this trio is about the most straight-forward setting in which you will find Frisell.
The tone for the night was set with the opening notes of a contemplative and lush take on the standard "You are my Sunshine." Frisell mostly kept the pedals and loops out of play for the set‚ instead relying on his bright‚ shimmering tone.
Some of the best moments of the night came when Carter and Frisell locked in and traded extended‚ roaming runs -- matching each other's trips up and down the neck of their guitars. Frisell had a giddy smile slapped across his face for the majority of the night -- as if he couldn't believe his good fortune to be sharing the stage with two of his heroes.
Barely visible behind the drums‚ Motian plays sparsely and lightly -- so much so that you might almost forget that he is there. He plays between the notes‚ adding color with light cymbal work and rolling fills. While Motian is undeniably a master drummer one could be forgiven for focusing more on his two bandmates.
It was a beautiful‚ contemplative set -- mood music. All three players were agile and focused yet at the same time they remained laid back and loose. The set was dominated by bright and wandering sounds that warmed up the club on an otherwise cold New York night.
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