Once Around the Room: A Tribute to Paul Motian Jakob Bro & Joe Lovano

Cover Once Around the Room: A Tribute to Paul Motian

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  • 1As It Should Be05:28
  • 2Sound Creation05:33
  • 3For The Love Of Paul10:04
  • 4Song To An Old Friend06:09
  • 5Drum Music06:04
  • 6Pause05:52
  • Total Runtime39:10

Info for Once Around the Room: A Tribute to Paul Motian

On Once Around The Room ECM recording artists and key jazz musicians from several generations unite in a small ensemble to celebrate the musical legacy of drum icon Paul Motian in a big way. Joe Lovano and Jakob Bro lead a party of seven through fiery originals that recall the idioms and idiosyncrasies which Motian brought to light over six influential decades behind the drums. Lovano and Motian had been intimate colleagues for many years with their most notable collaboration being the groundbreaking trio featuring Bill Frisell – the lineup released three albums on ECM. Jakob Bro on the other hand made his ECM debut on Paul’s album Garden of Eden (2006). On Once Around The Room, compositions by Joe and Jakob appear alongside collective improvisation and Motian’s own “Drum Music”, seamlessly tied together and developed by an accomplished musical collective with stalwarts Larry Grenadier, Thomas Morgan and Anders Christensen respectively on bass as well as drummers Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy.

A deeply felt and utterly original homage to a common inspiration and beloved colleague – the late, great drummer-composer Paul Motian – Once Around the Room is also the first album co-led by the Danish guitarist Jakob Bro and US saxophonist Joe Lovano. Bro conceived of a special band for the project, convening what Lovano calls “a mini orchestra” for the Copenhagen studio session, which took place 10 years to the date since Motian died in 2011, at age 80. The textured septet features three bassists (Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan each on double-bass, plus Anders Christensen on bass guitar) and two drummers (Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy), all players who have worked together in various combinations as well as recorded for the label in recent years. Along with two Motian-influenced originals each by Bro and Lovano, Once Around the Room includes a group improvisation and an especially dynamic rendition of a vintage Motian composition: “Drum Music.” The previous ECM work by both of the co-leaders has been widely praised, with The New Yorker declaring that “Lovano can render a musical phrase into a poem”, and DownBeat noting that “Bro’s guitar is luminous… his music both hypnotic and dramatic.”

Lovano – who toured and recorded in Motian’s peerless trio with guitarist Bill Frisell for three decades (1981-2011) – explains the new album’s title: “Paul would jog most every day around the reservoir in New York City’s Central Park, and he had a tune referencing that ritual called ‘Once Around the Park.’ And for our Copenhagen recording, we were all gathered together in a sort of circular situation in the studio, so it felt like we were going around the room as we played the pieces and took solos.” Musing on what he learned from working so intimately with Motian, Lovano added: “What I think about every time I’m on the bandstand or in the studio is something I really gleaned from Paul: that music should be about deep breathing and close listening. You should lead and follow at the same time, share the space and let the music carry you. It’s not about demonstrating your instrumental virtuosity as much as it’s about the art of improvising, being in the moment and really present with the music. “

Bro, who made his ECM debut on Motian’s Garden of Eden album, says: “What I loved so much about Paul’s music was its aesthetic sensibility, both in the way that he played and the way that he composed. Whether he was playing his own music or standards, it was always clear that it was Paul Motian. The way he put people together and organized his bands was also inspiring. Most personally, the harmonic universe of Paul’s compositions was vital in my search for something individual in my own song writing. Gradually, I moved from my tunes being directly related to Paul’s to where I could connect his influence and ideas to more of a Nordic tone. I started relating to the music of my childhood, whether it was psalms or folk tunes, and began building bridges between the worlds of my various influences. Paul’s inspiration helped lead me to develop my own voice.”

Bro first worked with Lovano in 2009, when the saxophonist joined the guitarist’s trio with Anders Christensen and drummer Jakob Høyer for a three-night stand at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse. “I had been fascinated with Joe for as long as I remember: his sound, his rhythmic feel, his sense of expression,” Bro explains. “I always hear the deep history of jazz in Joe’s playing. But at the same time, he has his own tone and approach to music. His world of harmony points forward, too.” Lovano returns the compliment, referencing the younger guitarist’s sound – the harmonic shimmers, tolling lines and looped atmospherics. “Jakob is in many ways a great disciple of Bill Frisell, but he has his own vision of music and of life,” the saxophonist says. “He’s not ‘a lead guitar player,’ as such – although he can definitely go there. His thing is more of an orchestral sound, very creative. And he really was instrumental in the conception of this album.”

Lovano’s compositions for Once Around the Room include the twelve-tone, drone-laced piece “As It Should Be” (whose title nods obliquely to “It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago,” the classic title track to the Motian/Lovano/Frisell trio’s first album, released by ECM in 1985). That tune, and Lovano’s evocative tribute “For the Love of Paul,” both make excellent use of roiling double drums to heighten the ensemble dynamism; the piece also includes some of Lovano’s most affecting playing on the album, plus a pealing solo by Bro. The guitarist wrote the balladic “Song To An Old Friend” (with Lovano carrying most of the melody), as well as the folk-like “Pause,” where Bro’s intimate playing weaves within the undertow of basses. “Sound Creation,” the group improvisation arranged from an initial idea by the saxophonist, explores the ensemble’s orchestral sound in an atmospheric way, with all the interwoven melodies invented in the moment (and Lovano trading his tenor sax midway to add a line on tarogato, his Eastern European reed instrument).

For the album’s lone Motian composition, “Drum Music,” Baron and Rossy feature both alone and together; the performance also includes one of Bro’s grittiest solos on record, which Lovano matches with a squalling solo of his own. “ ‘Drum Music’ was something of a theme tune for Paul’s trio with me and Bill,” the saxophonist says. “We would usually play it at the end of a set, sometimes just the theme and sometimes leaping off from it. On this record, we really dig into it! It’s a powerful piece of music.”

Reflecting on the session for Once Around the Room, Bro concludes: “Given the number of musicians in the group and everybody’s busy schedule, what are the odds, finally agreeing of on a date that we could all do and then it happens to be same date as Paul left us? It was miraculous that everyone made it to Copenhagen in the era of Covid – Joe flew in from Paris, Larry from London, Thomas from New York, Jorge from Switzerland and Joey from Berlin, joining me and Anders here. It felt almost surreal when we were all gathered and ready to record – and yet there was such a warm and open atmosphere in the studio. We all had a connection with Paul, and it felt like he was in the room with us somehow.”

Once Around The Room was recorded in Copenhagen at The Village Recording studio in November 2021. The album was produced by Manfred Eicher.

Jakob Bro, guitar
Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone, tarogato
Larry Grenadier, double bass
Thomas Morgan, double bass
Anders Christensen, electric bass
Joey Baron, drums
Jorge Rossy, drums

Jakob Bro
was born in Denmark in 1978. His father had a big band in which Bro began playing tambourine before he could even walk. Later, he switched from trumpet to guitar after discovering the music of Jimi Hendrix. He went on to study at Denmark’s Royal Academy of Music, Boston’s Berklee School and the New School in New York.

Bro is a former member of Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band and continues to play with the Tomasz Stanko Quintet alongside his projects as band leader. His own albums to date have featured an exceptional roster of musicians, including Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Kenny Wheeler, Paul Bley, Chris Cheek, Thomas Morgan, Ben Street, Mark Turner, Craig Taborn, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Andrew D’Angelo, Chris Speed, George Garzone, Oscar Noriega, David Virelles and others.

Bro made his first ECM appearance as a member of drummer Paul Motian's twin-sax/triple-guitar band on the late drummer's Garden of Eden (2006). Three years later he returned, this time as a member of Tomasz Stanko's trans-European quintet on Dark Eyes. Finally, in 2015, the label released Gefion, Bro’s warmly received debut as leader of a trio featuring Californian bassist Thomas Morgan and the legendary Jon Christensen on drums. Mike Gates of UK Vibe praised the trio’s “landscapes of sound that are achingly beautiful, sparse, yet full bodied at the same time”. Of his trio work, Bro himself has said: “The trio has been the constellation that has allowed me to focus on my solo voice. It's an expression where I feel nothing is missing.”

A second ECM trio album, with Thomas Morgan and Joey Baron was recorded in November 2015.

“Much of my music is constructed around melodies. My compositions are almost like a song. But within the frame I set up with a melody, a lot of things can happen. New layers of music are constantly added to the vocabulary, and when you play, you unconsciously get to a new place.”

Joe Lovano
is a Grammy-winning saxophonist, composer, and arranger. Down Beat magazine has twice named him Jazz Artist of the Year, and he scored a prestigious trifecta in 1998: nominations for Musician of the Year, Improviser of the Year, and Best Tenor Saxophonist in the New York Jazz Awards. He also topped both the Down Beat readers and critics polls as Tenor Player of the Year in 2000. Lovano attended Berklee in the early 1970s and received an honorary doctor of music degree from the college in 1998. In the fall of 2001 he began a prestigious teaching residency in the Berklee Ensemble Department, known as the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance. Since joining the Berklee faculty, the Blue Note artist has several albums as a leader and appeared on dozens of other recordings. He is also a faculty member in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. Lovano has collaborated with many legendary musicians, including McCoy Tyner, Hank Jones, Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, Branford Marsalis, Jim Hall, and Paul Motian.

Booklet for Once Around the Room: A Tribute to Paul Motian

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