Through no fault of his own, veteran jazz drummer Paul Motian might be remembered more for his drumming than composing. It’s not that he isn’t a worthy writer in the post-bop era, it’s just that you can’t be responsible for a third of the sound of Bill Evans’s Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby without having it overshadow everything you do afterwards.
Enter the exploratory guitarist Joel Harrison to rectify this problem. Harrison assembled a string choir to bring Motian’s original works to a new audience of chamber/classical and jazz fans. Consequently, the appeal of his tribute album, The Music of Paul Motian, will be limited. This is a shame because, despite some harmonically obtuse string arrangements, this is a fine piece of third-stream guitar showcasing. Mat Maneri, Liberty Ellman and Christian Howes contribute, among others, and—believe it or not—no one plays drums.