Paul Motian on “Carnival” 1984

In 1984 I flew to a club called “Ryles” in Boston to hear Paul’s new trio with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell. They performed for two nights. At the time, I thought the first night was incredible, the second, not as good. A fan sitting next to me named David recorded both nights. At the end of the first night, Paul demanded that he hand over his cassettes, which he did. The second night, David managed to conceal his recorder and microphone, and after I returned to Cleveland from Boston, he sent me a copy.

For years this tape has been my favorite recording of the trio. I can’t say how many times I’ve listened to and been inspired by it.

Not only did it have value for the excellence and inspiration of the music, but it also contained two never-recorded originals of Paul’s, one of which is this.

When Paul came to my apartment to do his interviews in the early 1990’s, I gave him copies of my transcriptions from this gig and undoubtedly recounted the story to him as well. Around the same time, I remember being at a gig of the trio’s at Sweet Basil and playing the recording of this tune for Joe and Bill to try to find out what the composition was. They both agreed the performance was great, and identified the tune as an original that Paul rejected called “Carnival.” The novel idea of the composition, as I remember it being explained to me (hopefully my memory is correct), was that one person would play in 3/4 while another would play in 4/4. Paul, meanwhile, seems to straddle between the two.

I also remember asking Joe, “how could Paul have rejected such a cool tune?” and Joe replying “Paul is a fickle composer!”

Now, years later, after Paul had passed away, there's a coda to this story. Paul’s niece, Cynthia McGuirl, who inherited his estate, also inherited the transcriptions I had given him, along with some of our correspondence, and got in touch with me. I sent her my copy of the second night, and she sent me a copy of the tape of the first night that Paul had confiscated. Finally, 30 years later I could hear it again! Did it match my original impressions? Honestly, at this point, I hear both nights as being equally special.

You can track down the recordings of these nights on Cynthia’s podcast: