Drummer Paul Motian dies at 80

Legendary jazz musician Paul Motian, who stood as one of the most influential drummers of the last 50 years, died early this morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. His friend Carole d’Inverno Frisell reported that the cause of death was complications from myelodisplastic syndrome, the same bone-marrow disorder that claimed the life of jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker.

Motian was 80 years old.

Perhaps best known for being a part of the Bill Evans Trio during famous recordings such as Waltz For Debby, Motian also spent time recording and performing during the late 50’s with musicians like Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins and George Russell. Motian then spent 11 years working with Keith Jarrett during the 60’s and 70’s, in addition to drumming for Mose Allison and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Ensemble.

The second half of his career found Motian more dedicated to composing and leading his own groups. During the late 70’s and early 80’s his working groups contained musicians like saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell, and in the 90’s he lead a group called the Electric Bebop Ensemble which featured saxophonist Joshua Redman.

In more recent years almost all of his work came out of New York, either recording in Manhattan or spending a handful of weeks each year performing at the Village Vanguard. Recent recordings include the album Consort in Motion, where he teamed up with trombonist Samuel Blaser, where the musicians performed arrangements of the work of Renaissance and Baroque composers.