I wonder if you can tell something about a person by the music he/she listens to. (And I wonder what that “something” might be.) The reason I’m wondering this today is not just that we begin our annual Critics’ Week, our year-end roundup of the best music, etc.; but also because of the passing this weekend of two world leaders and one barefoot diva.
Drummer Paul Motian, who died on Tuesday at age 80, was for way too many years the last surviving member of the famed Bill Evans Trio. (Evans died in 1980 at the age of 51; bassist Scott LaFaro died in 1961, aged 25.) As jazz writer Larry Blumenfeld noted on Soundcheck, this trio broke the usual piano-with-accompanying-rhythm-section mold and became a single unit of three equal parts. Maybe that's where Motian got his sense of space and silence, because throughout his career, his drumming was marked by an unparalleled restraint, and a sense of line as opposed to keeping time. Motian was patient, both in the way his pieces would unfold and in how his career developed. He was in his mid-40s when he began leading his own groups, and some of his best work came with the trio he formed with the emerging sax player Joe Lovano and the nearly-unknown guitarist Bill Frisell in the early 1980s.
In June 1994, that trio played in our WNYC studio on my old show, "Around New York." Listen to this performance, "Yahllah," and you'll hear three musicians sharing an almost telepathic musical connection.
Transforming the no-man's land of the South Pole into an inhabited country has long been imagined by authors and scholars alike. But if this unclaimed territory were to become a nation-state, what would its anthem sound like? Take part in a crowdsourcing experiment to propose national anthem lyrics for a fictional People's Republic of Antarctica.
Some recent Soundcheck guests gave us their picks for WNYC's Measuring Time: Music for 9/11 project. We asked them: "What would you want to hear on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001?"
Billy Bragg picked the Bruce Springsteen album, "The Rising." Conductor Leon Botstein chose the works by Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Violinist Ralph Farris from the string quartet Ethel sent us his arrangement of the National Anthem. And actor John Turturro chose a Frank Sinatra classic, "In the Wee Small Hours."
Click above to listen to each of them explain their picks.