Drum Music


Paul Motian’s melodies for improvisation rarely took more than a page to notate, but that doesn’t mean that his scores weren’t detailed. Motian frequently used phrase marks; sometimes chord symbols. Occasionally there’s something to raise a smile, like the tempo indication “latin” on the lunatic “Mumbo Jumbo.”

Motian always encouraged maximum freedom from his fellow musicians. Every version of his tunes is quite different. To cite an example I know well, “Byablue” was recorded twice by Keith Jarrett, both solo and quartet. While I learned Jarrett’s version as a kid, a glance at the chart handed to me by the composer was a revelation. Now when I play “Byablue,” I base it off of Motian’s handwriting, not Jarrett’s interpretation.

Going to the source gives one more room to make a personal statement. It’s also just interesting to discover the composer’s original intention, at least when the composer is profound as Paul Motian. “Victoria,” recorded in memoriam by TBP on Made Possible, is much closer to the score than previous versions where the melody and harmony was controlled by Jarrett or Sam Brown.

Cynthia McGuirl, Paul Motian’s niece and heir, has 115 of Motian’s handwritten charts. Those of us that love Paul’s music have been encouraging her to publish the collection. My personal vote would be for a facsimile edition, but that’s not the only option. Typesetting would be OK if a good editor was involved.

Cindy also has Paul’s fascinating unpublished autobiography, his legendary gig book (all the gigs he did, plus what he was paid) and many historical photos. Material from this archive has been showing up on Cindy’s remarkable blog and podcast, Uncle Paul’s Jazz Closet. (I’m particularly taken by the shot of Paul in a sailor suit.)

A few professional publishers have been contacted about making a Motian folio. So far I’ve been surprised at the lack of interest, but I guess music publishers are in the same bind as other vendors: sales of books and music are way down across the board.

Cindy is considering self-publishing a limited edition of her Uncle’s compositions in 4 volumes, ordered by date and albums. She’s hoping that sales of the first volume would pay for the 2nd volume, etc. Cindy gave her permission to post the original lead sheet of “Byablue” as she sees it for the composition book.

Surely all of Motian’s fans and students would love an official Motian book of tunes…? “Byeblue” is here, if you look around on Cindy’s blog you’ll find “Fiasco” and “Abacus” (very interesting phrase markings on the latter).

69 thoughts on “Drum Music

  1. I think this is a great idea, and I hope it becomes available!
    Paul’s publishing company is “Yazgol Music.” Does anyone know a story to explain the name?

  2. @Tim: Yazgol Music was named for Paul’s grandmother, Yazgol DerMoushegian, who was killed by Turkish soldiers in the Armenian genocide of 1915.

  3. I would love to see Motian’s music published and I think having it in 4 volumes by order of date & album is a great idea. I vote for both facsimile and typeset in one book (in case any handwritten music is difficult to read). If it can only be one, I’d choose facsimile over typeset. Binding doesn’t really matter to me, but spiral is probably more practical on a music stand. Please put me down for a pre-order, Cindy…

  4. Paul Motian was my first inspiration on the drums, hearing him with Bill Evans. Then, later, the way he organized his bands (especially EBBB) was another inspiration. Finally, his compositional creativity was a massive inspiration to me. I would buy a book of his charts in a heartbeat. Facsimile would be incredible. Spiral would be great for musicians, but jeez, you could almost make a coffee table book out of it – essays on Motian and the tunes by musicians/writers, photos, and then facsimiles of the charts? Damn.

  5. I vote for a facsimile edition that is flat. I cherish the charts that Paul gave me when I was in his group. I think that experiencing the charts in his handwriting is so much better than the alternative, and I hope that eventually everyone can have full access to this amazing body of work.

  6. Print them in his hand, exactly as he wrote it. It’s important how he wrote the rhythms. They could be PDF’s. Or you can create a spiral bound book or loose leaf charts at Kinko’s on ivory card stock. Card stock prints really beautifully! I think we should focus on making something that’s really beautiful. Keep the value up! At least have it as an option. Maybe PDF’s are OK as a bargain edition for musicians who need to study but don’t have the money. Just make sure there is human relationship in the transaction whenever possible. Handsome reproductions of the by hand charts on ivory card stock single sheets would really do justice to the beauty of charts, keeping the value up, keeping the tradition of the beautiful chart alive. These are to meditate on! Paul is a teacher!

  7. sure !!!! cindy and whoever needed 2 b involved will and have 2 make it happen ! we all will help. all the paul motian fans. i had years ago a hard times transcribing some motian songs, as i always thought how they actually look on a paper. rhythms, when it´s rubato-ish. and than, with the cindy-radio-show some charts appear. and … aha ! yeah. cool, so beautiful written, like a poem 2 look at ….. so happy 2 hear music of paul and will b happy to make evenings only playing motian music. i sometimes play a few songs on gigs. but …. now it looks i could get the whole “book” ……. we all will help ! sure ! …… says jazz pianist andreas schmidt, from berlin

  8. Thanks for posting this, Ethan! As I told Cindy already, ANY version of this will be great, but his hand-written charts are so moving and informing to look at I wouldn’t go for anything else, personally. You can HEAR the music in those charts.

  9. If only I were a publisher, I’d gladly take this book project on, and put it out yesterday! Facsimile, of course. I miss Paul… His body of work must not go unnoticed. Hoping someday these volumes will materialize.

  10. Paul Motian (w Frisell and Lovano) changed me molecularly when I was 16 years old out here in ol’ Minnesota. I’d love to see this book come alive and any option other than his handwriting seems goofy to me.

  11. @ J. T. Bates: I was at that same Walker Art Center show of Motian/Frisell/Lovano! Incredible gig. Apparently one of their very few American performances outside of New York. We were lucky to have that visitation.

  12. Facsimiles of Paul’s charts would be wonderful, I can’t imagine any reason to typeset them. My preferred format would be .pdf’s, which are simple to print out as needed, and would eliminate the cost of publishing. Similarly, regarding Paul’s diary, photos, and autobiography, why not self-publish that material in digital format, .pdf’s for the photos and diary, Kindle for the autobiography? That would likewise eliminate most of the publishing costs. I doubt that the typical worry of illegal redistribution of digital materials would apply in any significant degree to Paul’s fans. I think all or most would be so personally grateful for Cynthia’s efforts as to want to compensate her fairly. Regardless of how much of this comes to pass, I’m personally grateful to Cynthia for the dedication she’s already demonstrated in sharing Paul’s legacy.

  13. I’m a very amateur musician (and terrible reader) and may be wrong about this, but it seems pretty rare in jazz that original hand-notated scores are available. A facsimile publication of these would be incredible. Cindy deserves our thanks and much admiration for trying to do right by her uncle’s legacy.

  14. The autobiography should be published in proper book form – E-Books are not real books and book lovers hate them – Paul Motian was superhip, but in some ways also an old-fashioned person, so I think a superhip old-fashioned book would be the right thing

  15. I’d love to have any or all of the Motian content Ethan describes above. Put me down for one of each.
    Kickstarter (or any other crowdfunding service) could ease the financial burdon of the initial publication, or going all electronic (PDF files only) is a possible solution as well. I’d prefer print, but digital is certainly better than nothing!
    Fingers crossed, and anxiously awaiting…

  16. I’m a huge fan of Paul Motian’s music, and as a musician myself, I’d love to have a nice spiral bound, facsimile edition of Paul’s music.
    I’d love to see a kickstarter campaign (or similar) for this, and I would definitely make a solid donation. A campaign like that would reduce financial risk of publishing, also.

  17. I would most certainly buy a collection of Paul Motian’s compositions (and autobiography) and I think facsimile is best. Would also love to have some of those awesome photos in there too. So glad that Cindy is doing those podcasts, they are great listening.

  18. wow, this would be a dream come true! I’ve transcribed lots of Paul’s tunes but I’m sure my charts pale in comparison to the real thing. facsimile for sure. I’d be happy to contribute towards a fundraising effort. thanks, this post made my day!

  19. Paul was a visionary. His approach to composition and to the drums was totally unique. There is an inherent freedom in his music that is endlessly exhilarating. I would love to have the opportunity to purchase his gig book, compositions, etc., but most of all, I would love to read the autobiography.
    If any of this becomes available for purchase, I will be the first in line…

  20. I will purchase this material in any form, but the facsimile version would be preferred. What an amazing body of work from such a wonderful person. Going to the Vanguard to hear the trio each fall was one of the highlights of my listening life.

  21. I certainly liked Paul Motian’s composing, playing, and bands while he was still alive, but in the few years since his death his music has become more and more a source of fascination and inspiration for me.
    Earlier this year I gave myself a project to learn and arrange a handful of Paul’s compositions for solo piano (shortly before learning about Russ Lossing’s recording on the same lines.) As usual in such a project, the old jazz dictum that says it’s best to go straight to the source, to learn music off recordings whenever possible, influenced me. I’ve learned a lot even from transcribing about half a dozen tunes so far, and I’m glad to have done that work. With that said, the archive of Paul’s manuscripts is a great resource and I know I would value seeing and studying these. Another window onto his personality and voice.
    For me, anyway, an electronic format for the manuscripts would probably work. Maybe sales of a PDF version could even help fund the production of a hard copy version, although I could anticipate a concern that the availability of PDF would make a print edition less viable.

  22. Wow! The demand for this is clear and the many ideas for funding and self-publishing are all great.
    Another huge source of financial support and marketing help would come from the Armenian community — many, many famous creative Armenians are all over the place: George Avakian & family, Eric Bogosian, System of a Down (all the musicians), Cher, Peter Balakian, William Saroyan and on and on and on. It can not hurt to ask. The Armenian people are a very successful and very supportive people.
    Having a fund raising event with music and poetry that ties into Armenian folk music and traditional and modern Armenian poetry along with jazz would build relationships and audiences as well.
    The Armenian folk music influence in Paul Motian’s music is a wonderful avenue to explore. Armenian lullabies in particular…
    (Also, the Armenian writers would have relationships with publishers who might be interested in the autobiography).
    As for the charts, I think it could be done nicely and quickly going the Kickstarter/DIY route. Having his handwriting (which is very neat and beautiful) would be a treasure that a publishing company would most likely not care about and not want to have. Although, MTV Books does seem open to that kind of thing (ex.: The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur has his handwritten poems) and I think Serj Tankian’s book of art and poems was also from MTV Books….I don’t know….each publishing company has it’s own thing and a lot of rules….
    Also, since building audiences for jazz is another big push going on, perhaps there is a way to tie into a larger organization(s) for funding and publicity (Jazz Journalists, JazzEd, etc.)
    Just looking at Google, it seems like fundraising across the diaspora is a big thing in fundraising now…
    Organizing volunteers to help Cynthia McGuirl take care of the various details for this would most likely be appreciated. If everybody here signed up to do one little part, this would be done in a flash!
    I do wonder, however, if there are any issues or overwhelming kinds of snags with record companies and legal matters and stuff like that — that would have to get figured out first… Other than that, this project seems almost finished!
    I will join others to help. Thanks for starting the discussion, Ethan! This is really important.
    –Monique Avakian

  23. I think a combination of the facsimile, and a well edited typecast, using recordings as references. Steve Cardenas would be a great editor, doing something similar to his Thelonious Monk book, but with this project.

  24. Artist Share could be an option. I bought Ron Carter’s book from them. Would make a cool set with the music and books. I’ll buy it regardless of where it comes out. Also the facsimile version would be very cool.

  25. @Matt: Steve Cardenas is a great editor indeed.
    Your mention of the Monk book reminds me that a folio of Thelonious Monk facsimiles is long overdue.
    Of course there’s been a lot on DTM about wanting Duke Ellington facsimiles available as well.
    I saw a scribble of Charlie Parker at the Library of Congress…I’ve heard tell of Bud Powell manuscripts…

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