The late Bill Evans once said that he couldn’t claim to understand Zen Buddhism — he just found it comforting “and very similar to jazz … It’s got to be experienced because it’s feelings not words.” Those were Evans’ musings around 1960 when he was pioneering a new kind of openness and expressiveness in his Village Vanguard trio recordings; the group seemed weightless, at times, suspended in space. Those guys could really turn up the quiet when they needed to.
Forty-plus years later, Evans’ sentiments come to mind with the latest from this very different trio of saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist Bill Frisell and leader-drummer Paul Motian (an Evans trio alum). It begins with a softly voiced phrase that seems to float through nearly six minutes of repetition and gentle variations; it ends with Thelonious Monk’s rarely recorded, and aptly titled, “Dreamland”; in between we get the likewise rarely heard Hammerstein-Kern title track, plus originals that largely come across as post-Ornette lullabies, and one still more delicate reading of the lead-off piece. Motian and his bandmates can stomp and throw their weight around, as they show on “The Riot Act,” for instance, but they mainly show they can soft-shoe and tiptoe.
Motian first hired Frisell and Lovano in the ’80s when they were virtually unknown. That they’re now stars (to the extent that anyone in mainstream jazz is a star) doesn’t get in the way of a reunion that’s more about group chemistry than individual chops.
“Feelings not words,” indeed.
W. Kim Heron is the managing editor of Metro Times. E-mail email@example.com.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.