Stephen Paul Motian (March 25, 1931 – November 22, 2011) was an American jazz drummer, percussionist, and composer. Motian played an important role in freeing jazz drummers from strict time-keeping duties.He first came to prominence in the late 1950s in the piano trio of Bill Evans, and later was a regular in pianist Keith Jarrett's band for about a decade (c. 1967–1976). Motian began his career as a bandleader in the early 1970s. Perhaps his two most notable groups were a longstanding trio of guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, and the Electric Bebop Band where he worked mostly with younger musicians on interpretations of bebop standards. Motian was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. He was of Armenian descent. After playing guitar in his childhood, Motian began playing the drums at age 12, eventually touring New England in a swing band. During the Korean War he joined the Navy.Motian became a professional musician in 1954, and briefly played with pianist Thelonious Monk. He became well known as the drummer in pianist Bill Evans's trio (1959–64), initially alongside bassist Scott LaFaro and later with Chuck Israels.Subsequently, he played with pianists Paul Bley (1963–64) and Keith Jarrett (1967–76). Other musicians with whom Motian performed and/or recorded in the early period of his career included Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Joe Castro, Arlo Guthrie (Motian performed briefly with Guthrie in 1968–69, including at Woodstock), Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, and Don Cherry. Motian subsequently worked with musicians such as Marilyn Crispell, Bill Frisell, Leni Stern, Joe Lovano, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Alan Pasqua, Bill McHenry, Stéphan Oliva, Frank Kimbrough, Eric Watson and many more.Later in his career, Motian became an important composer and group leader, recording initially for ECM Records in the 1970s and early 1980s and then for Soul Note, JMT, and Winter & Winter before returning to ECM in 2005. From the early 1980s he led a trio featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, occasionally joined by bassists Ed Schuller, Charlie Haden, or Marc Johnson, and other musicians, including Jim Pepper, Lee Konitz, Dewey Redman and Geri Allen. In addition to playing Motian's compositions, the group recorded tributes to Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans, and a series of Paul Motian on Broadway albums, featuring original interpretations of jazz standards.Despite his important associations with pianists, Motian's work as a leader since the 1970s rarely included a pianist in his ensembles and relied heavily on guitarists. Motian's first instrument was the guitar, and he apparently retained an affinity for the instrument: in addition to his groups with Frisell, his first two solo albums on ECM featured Sam Brown, and his Electric Bebop Band featured two and occasionally three electric guitars. The group was founded in the early 1990s, and featured a variety of young guitar and saxophone players, in addition to electric bass and Motian's drums, including saxophonists Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Chris Cheek, and Tony Malaby, and guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brad Shepik, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Steve Cardenas, Ben Monder, and Jakob Bro.In 2011 Motian featured on a number of new recordings, including Live at Birdland (with Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden), Samuel Blaser's Consort in Motion, No Comment by Augusto Pirodda, and Further Explorations with Chick Corea and Eddie Gómez. Bill McHenry's Ghosts of the Sun was released - by coincidence - on the day of Motian's death. Motian's final album as bandleader was The Windmills of Your Mind, featuring Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan and Petra Haden.Motian died on November 22, 2011, at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital of complications from myelodysplastic syndrome.
Known for Sound
Deathday 2011-11-22 (80 years old)
Birth name Stephen Paul Motian
Place of birth Philadelphia, United States of America
Citizenships United States of America