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Cindy also has Paul’s fascinating unpublished autobiography, his legendary gig book (all the gigs he did, plus what he was paid) and many historical photos.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).