November 22nd, 2011
Drummer Paul Motian 1931-2011

Stephen “Paul” Motian, one of the most influential modern jazz drummers and friend to many at Birdland, passed away November 22nd at the age of 80.

After distinguishing himself as the drummer in pianist Bill Evans’ groundbreaking trio in the 1950s, Motian went on to create an innovative style of jazz drumming emphasizing color and texture with minimalistic references to beat and groove. In addition to recording with pianist Keith Jarrett’s important “American Quartet” in the 1970s with bassist Charlie Haden and saxophonist Dewey Redman, Motian thrived as a band leader. His “Electric Bebop Band” introduced and/or nurtured important young jazz artists such Joshua Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder and Chris Potter. Motian’s most enduring project was a trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano that explored an innovative approach to jazz standards.
Motian’s recent CD release was an all-star quartet session for ECM Records, Live at Birdland (2011) with Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden, which was recorded during Birdland’s 60th anniversary celebration in December, 2009. Motian was one of the few artists who performed regularly at both the original and current incarnations of Birdland and he will be deeply missed.