This CD was recorded on a day off during a European tour last summer. At age 70, Motian is as busy as ever and continues with his updating of bebop classics, most notably those of Thelonious Monk. The opening Monk tune, "Oska T," swings gently behind the master’s deft touch. He plays a short solo that is a lesson in both swing and economy. Motian can say more in one note than most drummers can in a whole song. And swing - he is swing incarnated. While some drummers try to force a band along with chops and sheer muscle, Motian pulls them along with his absolute joy and boundless energy. Check out his ride cymbal work on Charlie Parker’s "Birdfeathers." He dances along with a light, yet firm touch. His solo breaks here are a lesson in drumming. New bassist, Anders Christensen, keeps up with Motian, providing a swinging pulse.
On Motian’s own "Blue Midnight," he plays brushes behind the twin sax/twin guitar line up. Here he demonstrates his more abstract side, using the brushes more as a painter would, shading and providing texture to the music. The saxes and guitars move in and out, alternately soloing and playing in the background. The overall feeling is one of a sound collage. Steve Cardenas’ swinging "New Moon" features bassist Christensen who proves nimble and agile. The ensemble swings through the melody before Chris Cheek breaks out in a tenor sax solo. His sound is full, yet relaxed, moving along on top of the guitars chording.
Motian’s "Fiasco" is a gentle tune that swings along with both Cheek and Tonolo delivering tenor solos. Cardenas then takes a guitar solo with Mondar following. All four of them play with a sense of melody that often seems so absent from today’s recordings. Monk’s "Gallops Gallop" is next. It’s ironic how Motian has concentrated on recording the songs of such piano giants as Monk and Bud Powell in a piano less group. But by doing so, he has brought their music into the twenty-first century and kept it both fresh and alive. "Gallop" is again more abstract with the musicians breaking out into free solos over the rhythm section.
Tadd Dameron’s "If You Could See Me Know" is a gentle ballad with Motian on brushes. The guitars take turns soloing. Cheek and Tonolo both play lovely tenor solos. Their styles mesh well with Tonolo having a slightly fuller voice. The closing "2300 Skidoo" by Herbie Nichols swings its way through the head before the tenors trade solos and then the guitars.
While many of the "young lions" today profess to be looking back for their inspiration, often modeling their music on the masters, Motian, the old master himself, has taken the past forward to the future and infused it into a band of energetic and talented younger musicians. Nobody swings better than Motian, and he is at the top of his game here. If you dig bebop, run out and buy this!