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Pianist Russ Lossing and drummer Paul Motian recorded together at least five times over 10 years. In addition, Lossing worked with Motian to provide harmonic foundations for his composed melodic lines. Motian Music is Lossing’s second tribute to his mentor. The first was a solo outing from 2011, the year of Motian’s death. This time, he’s joined by bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Billy Mintz, Lossing’s musical companions for more than 20 years. If this loving tribute can, at times, sound a bit tedious, it is also highlighted by moments of true lyricism.
Lossing bookends the album with “Asia” and “Psalm,” tender compositions that present the trio at its introspective best. Dreamy and exploratory, the pieces inspire thoughts of serenity. The second tune, “Abacus,” is more skittish, and the third, “Fiasco,” may be the edgiest on the record, although it’s certainly not as chaotic as its title suggests. “Boomerang,” a composition that seems to search for focus, allows Kamaguchi to stretch out, resulting in his most memorable solo on this session. Ironically, the drummer, Mintz, sounds under-recorded and at times almost unnecessary; he’s always in the mix, of course, and he plays with sensitivity and precision, but he never achieves the presence that Motian created. Consider, by comparison, Motian’s vigorous trio albums with Geri Allen and Charlie Haden, or his justly famous sessions with Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro.
That said, the integrity of this album is undeniable. The trio recorded these 10 pieces in a room without dividers. They laid down each track in one take, and in the order that we hear them. There’s much to be said for that kind of in-the-moment emotion. — Sascha Feinstein