Russ Lossing - Motian Music

Label: Sunnyside, 2019

Personnel – Russ Lossing: piano; Masa Kamaguchi: bass; Billy Mintz: drums.


Pianist Russ Lossing dabbles in the fascinating musical universe of Paul Motian, an artist he knew very well. For 12 years, they were friends and collaborators, and Lossing decided this was the time to honor the late genius whose tunes fall somewhere between the lyrical and the abstract. Paraphrasing the pianist: “this music plays itself.”

On Motian Music, his debut on Sunnyside, he teams up with longtime associates bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Billy Mintz, a pair of creative minds with an elevated rhythmic sensibility.

The first couple of pieces, “Asia” and “Abacus”, date from the late ’70s, but their shapes are unlike. The former, carrying some folk connotations and emotional grandeur, mirrors the splendor of this piano trio; in turn, the latter comes enveloped by a magnetic abstraction and instigates free exploration. During the first minutes, Mintz offers us tonality, having the round, somewhat pinched bass notes from Kamaguchi dancing at his side as well as Lossing’s resolute, if perplexing, melodic lines.

Both drummer and bassist do a great job throughout, but they are particularly in evidence on pieces like “Dance”, a permanent push-pull activity with Lossing’s fluid ideas floating atop, and “Mumbo Jumbo”, a three-way conversation characterized by a strong rhythmic temperament and some motivic impetuosity that never reaches a factual state of anxiety.

Originally included on Motian's album It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago (ECM, 1984), “Fiasco” and “Introduction” are tackled with tempo exemption, allowing lots of liberties in the harmonic and melodic demarcations. In the case of the first composition, things are stirred up with a swinging feel at once familiar and eccentric. Conversely, “Introduction” adopts a reserved posture and is extended to six minutes against the three of the original recording. Bright flashes of piano convey a weirdly dreamlike aura gently underpinned by airier inflections of bass and brushed drums.

The recording couldn’t have ended in a better way, with the seraphic “Psalm” expressing a levitating simplicity that touches the sublime. Without subverting the art of Motian, Lossing puts a personal touch in this startlingly intimate album. The results are more than satisfactory and fans of the drummer will instantly relate to the music.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Asia ► 08 - Mumbo Jumbo ► 10 - Psalm