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Issue: February 1994
Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band (Polydor K.K.)
Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band

Jazz fans, perhaps more than the fans of any other musical genre other than "classical," love to say that their kind of music is superior to all the rest. When they say such unbearable things, they are relying on records such as this one to argue their point.

Respected drummer Paul Motian and his band of youngsters chose some of jazz's hoariest pieces on this eponymous album, and the result is brilliant. How many times have you heard a band work "Hot House," "Shaw-Nuff" and "Scrapple from the Apple"? Motian not only reinvigorates these classics, he has enough rejuvenating magic to boost TWO takes of "Scrapple."

Part of his secret is the band, a stellar cast of young cats in an unusual two-electric-guitar configuration. Joshua Redman blows tenor sax, Stomu Takeighi plays electric bass, Motian plays drums and Brad Schoeppach and Kurt Rosenwinkel play electric guitar. Rosenwinkel, with his clean, smooth tone, can be heard in the right speaker while Schoeppach and his sometimes fuzzier, distorted sound comes from the left. The two play themes in unison, trade solos and create marvelous structures that would not stand alone — yet balance together perilously.

They execute even more death-defying acts when comping behind Redman or Takeighi. Witness "Hot House," with dissonant comping yielding to a give-and-take conversation between the guitarists, melting into a Redman solo with Schoeppach and Rosenwinkel still commenting from outside the spotlight. Schoeppach glides into notes with a swell from his volume knob while Rosenwinkel bops along with a Raney-like crispness.

As leader, Motian sets the limbo stick plenty low, and coaxes maximum performances out of the other musicians. Takeighi employs a variety of techniques on the bass and takes some fine solos. Redman sounds better in this context than on his two solo albums. And Motian provides high-grade fuel that keeps this machine moving forward.

The chemistry among the players is noteworthy, especially the interaction of the guitar players. In instrumentation, approach and production, Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band is making mildly innovative, post-modern bebop. The delicious playing and the feisty, controlled energy make the album irresistible. Maybe jazz is king.

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