Paul Motian on “The Next Day” (album) 1987
Based on this recording and the one preceding it (“Clairvoyant”), I think of Leni Stern likely as an underrated bandleader, because she put together unexpected combinations of sidemen and wrote music that brought out aspects of them that can’t be found elsewhere in their discographies.
That is the case with Paul. Three of the tunes transcribed, “Randee Sue,” “The Next Day,” and “Motian,” have a rock feel with a strongly implied backbeat. Paul sometimes implies half-time and double-time by doubling or halving the placement of the backbeat, and occasionally displaces those backbeats ahead or behind a beat. Paul's unique approach opens up what otherwise likely would have been a conventional modern rhythm section, in much the same way as his use of displacement in the Bill Evans trio opened up the approach of the conventional jazz rhythm section.
And speaking of displacement, on “The Next Day,” Paul plays a series of dramatic fills leading out of the guitar solo and into the saxophone solo that sometimes begin on unexpected parts of unexpected beats, and resolve on unexpected parts of unexpected beats.
Another facet to these performances is the organic approach that Paul takes to each tune. Compare, for example, the two waltzes, “Balance,” and “Monica.” Both are a similar tempo, and both are gentle. Most drummers would approach the two tunes identically, but Paul instead responds to the subtle differences of each tune's character. In “Balance,” during the guitar statement, he alternates timekeeping on the snare with space and silence; for the saxophone solo, he increases the intensity and changes the timbre by moving most of his timekeeping to the heavier-sounding ride cymbal. As Paul describes this approach during his interview elsewhere on this blog, “You’ve got two soloists, so instead of doing the same thing throughout both solos, you want to change it up a little bit… To give it some form, to make it interesting for me, and hopefully, that makes it interesting for the listener.”
On Monica, on the other hand, Paul treats what is a very simple tune with a single soloist as a more straightforward waltz by simply outlining the meter with his brushes for the most part.