Paul Motian, Selected Discography

On Broadway, Volume 1 – Still a lovely record and the beginning of Motian’s long, late period purple patch.

Bill Evans – The best of the JMT discs, strikes a great balance between straight-ahead playing and expressive thinking, without a hint of sentimentality.

Trio at the Village Vanguard/Sound of Love – The studio records of this trio are inconsistent, each with high and low points, but these two discs are excellent through and through, emotionally and intellectually engaging and a wistful companion to the days of youth, will Bill Evans.

Electric Bebop Band – Pretty much a separate category, considering both the number of discs, the rotating personnel and the consistent (and somewhat anodyne style of the music). There are no bad CDs, but some forgettable moments, and these titles are the most successful:

On Broadway Volumes 4 and 5 – Perhaps these are the culmination of Motian’s career as a musician and bandleader. The material is standards, but well-selected, with some obscure gems. The playing is simultaneously organized within the groups and almost totally free, with Motian shuffling in his inimitable wrong-footed way. Volume 4 has Rebecca Martin’s gorgeous singing, Volume 5 great playing from the horns. Consider these essential.

While such a long career seems to demand a boxed set, the only one is the collection of Motian’s recordings on the Black Saint/Soul Note labels, spanning small groups, the trio, a duet with Paul Bley and more. Also essential.


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.