Prof. Richard Holsworth
1020 Survey of Jazz
April 23, 2013
Born Stephen Paul Motian, an American jazz drummer, percussionist, and composer, in Philadelphia on March 25, 1931, he grew up in Providence and began playing the drums at age 12. They considered him an advanced improviser and a bandleader with a taste of challenging post-bop.His first musical attraction was guitar. Some people would consider him a late learner on the drums. Usually when it comes to music lessons or learning an instrument, children start around the age of seven or eight. Due to the Korean War, Paul was forced to join the army and left the age of 24. Paul played in school bands until his high school graduation in 1949. He played local gigs around Providence before catching on with a band that toured New England playing stock big band arrangements. Bebop pioneer Kenny Clarke, whom Motian often credited with inspiring his wonderfully sensitive brush playing, was a major influence around this time, as was Max Roach. Paul became a professional drummer in 1954 and in 1955 he moved to New York where he played with multiple musicians including Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano, Coleman Hawkins, Tony Scott, and George Russell. He eventually settled in a regular as part of Bill Evans’ trio along with bassist Scott LaFaro. He played along with Evans’ trio from 1959-1964, where he first became prominence. He also appeared on his classics Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby. After his years with Evans’ trio, he left to join forces with Paul Bley and began a long association and relationship with Keith Jarrett in 1966. From there he appeared with American-based quartet up until 1977. Along the way Paul freelanced for artists like Mose Allison, Charles Lloyd, Carla Bley, and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Ensemble, and turned down the chance to be John Coltrane's second drummer. Motian did his writing on the piano—and his first set of keys was sure...
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