Once Around The Room - A Tribute To Paul Motian

Jakob Bro, Joe Lovano

On Once Around The Room ECM recording artists and key jazz musicians from several generations unite in a small ensemble to celebrate the musical legacy of drum icon Paul Motian in a big way. Joe Lovano and Jakob Bro lead a party of seven through fiery originals that recall the idioms and idiosyncrasies which Motian brought to light over six influential decades behind the drums. Lovano and Motian had been intimate colleagues for many years with their most notable collaboration being the groundbreaking trio featuring Bill Frisell – the lineup released three albums on ECM. Jakob Bro on the other hand made his ECM debut on Paul’s album Garden of Eden (2006). Here, compositions by Joe and Jakob appear alongside a collective improvisation and Motian’s own “Drum Music”, seamlessly tied together and developed by an accomplished musical collective with stalwarts Larry Grenadier, Thomas Morgan and Anders Christensen respectively on bass as well as drummers Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy.
Auf Once Around The Room vereinen sich wichtige Jazzmusiker aus mehreren Generationen in einem kleinen Ensemble, um das musikalische Vermächtnis der Schlagzeug-Ikone Paul Motian groß zu feiern. Joe Lovano und Jakob Bro führen eine siebenköpfige Gruppe durch temperamentvolle Originale, die an die Idiome und Eigenheiten erinnern, die Motian in sechs einflussreichen Jahrzehnten hinter dem Schlagzeug ans Licht brachte. Lovano und Motian waren viele Jahre lang enge Kollegen, wobei ihre bemerkenswerteste Zusammenarbeit das bahnbrechende Trio mit Bill Frisell war – die Formation veröffentlichte drei Alben bei ECM. Jakob Bro wiederum gab sein ECM-Debüt auf Pauls Album Garden of Eden (2006). Auf Once Around The Room finden sich Kompositionen von Joe und Jakob neben kollektiven Improvisationen und Motians eigener "Drum Music", die nahtlos miteinander verbunden sind und von einem versierten musikalischen Kollektiv mit Larry Grenadier, Thomas Morgan bzw. Anders Christensen am Bass sowie den Schlagzeugern Joey Baron und Jorge Rossy weiter entwickelt wurden.
Featured Artists Recorded

November 2021, The Village Recording, Copenhagen

Original Release Date


  • 1As It Should Be
    (Joe Lovano)
  • 2Sound Creation
    (Anders Christensen, Jakob Bro, Joe Lovano, Joey Baron, Jorge Rossy, Larry Grenadier)
  • 3For The Love Of Paul
    (Joe Lovano)
  • 4Song To An Old Friend
    (Jakob Bro)
  • 5Drum Music
    (Paul Motian)
  • 6Pause
    (Jakob Bro)
‘Once Around the Room – A Tribute to Paul Motian’ is a variously raw and delicate balance of collective improvisation, quirky themes and haunting harmonies recorded by an A-list septet including three bassists and two drummers, in celebration of Motian’s legacy as a great percussionist/composer. Co-led by Danish guitarist Jakob Bro and American saxophonist Joe Lovano (both former Motian partners), the tracklist features two Lovano and two Bro originals, and Motian’s own scurrying, spacey Drum Music.
John Fordham, The Guardian
A tribute to an extraordinary musician calls for an extraordinary line-up, and that is what Jakob Bro and Joe Lovano have given us in their first album as co-leaders. The guitarist and saxophonist convened on the tenth anniversary of the drummer Paul Motian’s death to honour him with a septet featuring two drummers, Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy, and three bassists, Larry Grenadier, Thomas Morgan and Anders Christensen. When they play in unison, what could have been confused and cacophonous instead becomes a warm bath of sound.   […] The one Motian composition is ‘Drum Music’, intense free jazz with solo and duet spots for Baron and Rossy, Bro is grungy and fuzzbox ferocious, Lovano apocalyptic and agonised, but the upshot is pure joy.
Chris Pearson, The Times
The late American drummer Paul Motian’s balance of freedom and form underscored an elliptic pulse with a strong sense of purpose and time. Jakob Bro and Joe Lovano’s compelling tribute captures that floaty urgency by using a double rhythm section bolstered by an additional bass guitar. The fluid rhythms, sensitive interplay and misty textures remain, but a sharper attack and greater urgency offer something new.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
No one could spot-on-replicate Motian’s unusual drum style, which swirled around, above, below and through the pulse without ever losing control of the rhythm. So Bro and Lovano do the next best thing: they bring in two drummers. Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy both have experience with elastic percussion playing, and their rumbling roil emulates Motian’s style without copying it. The low end features a trio of bassists, Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan on double bass and Anders Christensen on electric bass, that somehow don’t step on each other’s toes, even when they’re all playing together. While all the elements are there for this septet to indulge in free form chaos, instead the group plays orchestrally, listening to and complimenting each other, even as they stay true to Motian’s concept of boundaryless post bop. Meanwhile, Lovano and Bro both turn in some of the most inspired work of their careers. […] Ultimately, it’s Lovano and Bro’s familiarity with their former boss’s aesthetic that guides ‘Once Around the Room’, and their confidence in how far and wide it ranged that makes the album a triumph.
Michael Toland, Big Takeover
Cet album ce termine par une composition du guitarist Jakob Bro, ‘Pause’, qui vous arracherait Presque des larmes. Emotion pour Motian. […] A l’ecoute de ces trente-neuf minutes sans une seule seconde de trop, on se dit qu’un groupe est né, et qu’avec Bro, Lovano […] Très grand disque vous dit-on, dédié non seulement à un batteur genial, mais aussi à l’immense leader qu’il aura toujour été.
Noadya Arnoux, Jazz Magazine
The entire ensemble produces a stunning array of textures and dynamics, from the most utterly graceful to mountainously powerful. In one moment, we are in a folk-like, gracefully restrained vein and in the next a freewheeling, wall-shattering one. Yet, whether solemn or vibrant, it’s about the feel they get evoking Motian’s spirit.
Jim Hynes, Glide Magazine
Als der Saxofonist Joe Lovano und der Gitarrist Jakob Bro im Jahr 2021 ein Tribute-Projekt für Motian zusammenstellen sollten, entschieden sie sich für Fans und Weggefährten: Bassisten wie Thomas Morgan, Larry Grenadier, Anders Christensen und Schlagzeuger wie Joey Baron und Jorge Rossy, die sich auf diesem sehr gelungenen Album als Team kraftvoll,wuchtig, modern frei und im Flow zwischen Elegik und Pathos pendelnd vor dem großen Meister Motian verneigen.  So ist ‘Once Around The Room’ mehr geworden al seine reine Erinnerung – es ist eine auch klanglich herausragende Würdigung mit der Kraft der nächsten Generationen.
Ralf Dombrowski, Stereoplay (‘Jazz album of the month’)
Apart from being one of the greatest drummers in improvised music, Paul Motian was also a composer who achieved the significant feat of creating his own sound world. […] this Motian themed album by two of his former bandmates – Danish guitarist Jakob Bro was in the Paul Motian Band and American saxophonist Joe Lovano in the celebrated trio with Bill Frisell – stays vividly true to that strong identity, as one might expect given the aforesaid credentials of the joint leaders. But the value of the project lies in the personalization and extension of the template, and while there is a simmering sensitivity in the timbres of guitar and saxophone on many an occasion there is also a strength of attack that often borders on eruptive intensity. […] Much more than a tribute, ‘Once Around The Room’ captures his spirit and walks with it to a performance that has a compelling sense of vibrant celebration as well as solemn recognition of greatness.
Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise
In einer überraschenden Kollaboration mit dem wegen seines traumverlorenen und doch kraftvoll flächigen Spiels hoch gelobten dänischen Gitarristen Jakob Bro hat Saxofonist Joe Lovano nun das Tribute-Album für Paul Motian veröffentlicht. Es integriert eine Komposition seines langjährigen musikalischen Partners und schreibt dessen Intentionen in Kompositionen der beiden Bandleader und einer Kollektivimprovisation fort. […] Und immer wieder sind da diese luftig offenen, gar nicht zugestellten Räume, die improvisatorisch ausgeschritten werden. Dezent und äußerst aufmerksam wird aufeinander reagiert in diesen Septettkonversationen, in denen es nicht um Virtuosität geht, sondern um ein fein austariertes Agieren und Reagieren. Sensibilität und Individualität konturieren dieses Spiel, bei dem keiner auftrumpfen muss, damit etwas Gemeinsames wächst. […] Die Atmosphäre dieser Aufnahmen ist berückend, schöne Melodien wachsen aus dem Moment, eine entspannend spannende Stimmung überträgt sich.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Freie Presse
 Guitarist Jacob Bro and saxophonist Joe Lovano co-lead a septet of players with strong connections to the late Paul Motian (and to each other) on ‘Once Around The Room’, a powerful, highly personal tribute to the influential drummer, who became a composer and bandleader relatively late in his five-decades-long career. […] The music rains melodic lines, scribbles and skronks; it surrounds the listener with a rumbling, shimmering atmosphere generated by the fallout of Bro’s all-encompassing guitar effects and the collective thunder of the basses and drums. Moments of reflective calm marked by clearly defined melodies, harmonies and beats come into play as well, reminding us of Motian’s gentler side. Highlights include Lovano’s 12-tone composition ‘As It Should Be,’ which makes a bold opening statement; Bro’s balladic ‘Song To An Old Friend,’ where the guitarist’s intimate playing meshes with the basses in a foundation of perpetual-motion arpeggio over which Lovano carries the melodic line, strong and confident in the less-forgiving upper ranges of his horn; and ‘Drum Music,’ which finds Lovano and Bro indulging in the sort of outrageous exaggerations and overstatements that Motian would likely approve of while Rossy and Baron are spotlighted both alone and together in percussion celebration.
Ed Enright, Downbeat
C’est magnifique […] De longs voyages à travers des paysages sonores magnifiques, tantôt éthérés tantôt puissants, aux atmosphères rêveuses, inoubliables, aux échappées soudaines, aux explorations incessantes. A écouter inlassablement.
Jean-Claude Vantroyen, Le Soir
Virtuos öffnen sie musikalische Räume, in denen sich die lyrisch-sphärischen Texturen und die vital-expressiven Melodien durch ein mini-orchestrales Setting bewegen. Eine feinfühlige Hommage mit Power.
Pirmin Bossart, Kulturtipp
The band tackles Motian’s characteristically dark, slippery ‘Drum Music’ with searing intensity, but with the exception of the spaciously and fully improvised lyric rumble of ‘Sound Creation’, the tunes were written by the co-leaders for a setting that duly invokes the music of its subject. Bro can’t help but summon the spirit of Frisell, but it’s more about presence that sonic identity and his rapport with Lovano, whether playing unison passages or offering spiky counterpoint to the saxophonist’s finely etched, richly grained improvisations. It’s the best kind of musical salute, one that elevates the honoree while opening up fresh new paths for today.
Peter Margasak, The Quietus
Das Septett besteht, von den beiden Co-Leadern abgesehen, aus nicht weniger als drei Bassisten und zwei Drummern. Dabei war doch Motian unter allen Schlagzeugern des Jazz der extremste Raumarchitekt, ein sensibler Virtuose dr Sparsamkeit und ein Magier der Auslassung. […] Wie soll das gehen, bei einer solchen Mehrfachbesetzung? Erstaunlich genug: Es geht nicht nur, bei diesen Beteiligten. Keiner steht dem andern im Weg, jeder denkt zuerst an den Raum und den gemeinsamen Atem: Larry Grenadier und Thomas Morgan an den Kontrabässen, Anders Christensen an der Bassgitarre, die beiden Drummer Joey Baron und Jorge Rossy. Sie schaffen ein zuweilen dichtes, immer aber durchsichtiges Geflecht, in welchem der Hörer mit zunehmender Aufmerksamkeit die einzelnen Stimmen wahrnimmt.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche
Der Opener ‘As It Should Be’ aus der Feder Lovanos eröffnet mit seinem brodelnden rhythmischen Untergrund, den darübergelegten expressiven Saxophon-Linien und den schräg-verzerrten Gitarrenharmonien jene spannungsgeladene Atmosphäre, die für weite Strecken des Albums prägend ist. Die außergewöhnliche Konstellation erfordert kreatives und höchst sensibles Interplay, was klarerweise besonders auch in der Gruppenimprovisation ‘Sound Creation’ zum Tragen kommt. Lovanos zehn Minuten langes ‘For The Love of Paul’ eröffnet nicht nur dem Saxophonisten viel Raum, sondern verblüfft vor allem auch durch die ausgefallenen Sound-Ideen Jakob Bros. Aus seiner Feder stammen die beiden Ruhepole des Albums, das stimmungsvoll verträumte ‘Song To An Old Friend’ und der Americana-hafte Closer „Pause“, in dem sich die warme Gitarrenmelodie kunstvoll mit den Bässen verquickt und Lovano einen nahezu idyllischen Abgang zaubert. Dazwischen ist die einzige Komposition Paul Motians angesiedelt: ‘Drum Music’ […] Hier entfaltet das Septett nochmals seine volle Kraft, Joe Lovano steigert sich höchst eindrucksvoll ins Exzessive, Bro entfesselt eine verzerrt Gitarrenorgie, in die der Saxophonist mit adäquaten Tönen einsteigt, und am Anfang und am Ende verblüffen sie mit einer donnernden Unisono-Passage. Klar, ‘Once Around The Room’ ist keine einfache Kost, sondern ein anspruchsvolles Vergnügen, in das man sich einhören muss. Dafür wird man dann bei jedem Durchlauf mit neuen reizvollen Details belohnt.
Peter Füssl, Kultur
Together, they commune over a series of original compositions inspired by Motian’s work. The sole Motian piece that they tackle is the fittingly titled ‘Drum Music,’ a song Lovano originally recorded on Motian’s 1985 album ‘Jack of Clubs’ with Frisell. Beginning with a roiling drum solo, the song soon gives way to a boppish melody that Lovano and Bro play in unison with a guttural intensity. Later, Bro takes a solo, distorting his guitar sound with fractured, overdriven effects like a robotic sitar. Lovano responds in kind, spitting out a long volley of notes that sound like paint being scratched off a wall. The originals are no less adventurous, moving from Lovano’s ‘As It Should Be’ with its droney bass and echoey sax and guitar interplay to the spectral group improv of ‘Sound Creation,’ where Bro’s crystalline chords and Lovano’s mournful sax lines merge into a wave of shimmering, fractal space noise. Equally compelling is Lovano’s ‘For the Love of Paul,’ a bluesy, off-kilter number that combines the rambling free-bop style of Ornette Coleman with the stop-start phrasing of Thelonious Monk. There’s also Bro’s ‘Song to an Old Friend,’ a delicate ballad that has the far-eyed introspection of a Radiohead song. All of this evokes the boundaryless creative spirit of Motian.
Matt Collar, All Music
Lovano and the Danish guitarist Jakob Bro are natural torchbearers for the spirit of Motian, both having been profoundly touched by working with him, and Bro too recorded with Motian on ECM […] Completing the unusual line-up are two drummers, Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy, and three (yes, three) bassists: Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan on double bass, and Anders Christensen on bass guitar. […] Remarkably, the five of them don’t get in each other’s way, instead weaving a complex mesh of sound that fills both left and right channel. It’s often hard to tell who’s playing what, the electric bass in particular often indiscernible from the double basses. […] the knottier moments may surprise those lulled by the artwork into expecting only introspective nocturnes. But this is complex music with fine players and an unusual line-up, and reveals its treasures with close and repeated listening.
Julian Maynard-Smith, London Jazz News
There’s a sensitive nature to the music here, balanced with exploration and improvisation. Musical ideas are crafted, combined and collectively embraced by the ensemble. Interwoven melodies are fully in the moment, with the spirit of Paul Motian flowing freely through the entire session.
Mike Gates, UK Vibe
Although he’s more than able to hold his own in a straight-up blowing session, eminent tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano has a tender, introspective side and a talent for free jazz, both of which are brought into sharp focus here, thanks to a pairing with that supreme textualist on guitar, Jakob Bro. The collaboration is a tribute to the late Paul Motian, with whom Lovano played for many years in a trio with guitarist Bill Frisell. Earlier, after breaking in as part of the Bill Evans Trio, Motian anchored Keith Jarrett’s band for a decade. Bro, whose playing has some of the same harmonic shadings as Frisell’s, made his ECM debut on Motian’s 2005 album ‘Garden of Eden’. An engaging, inventive bandmate who never steps on collaborators’ toes, Bro is a master at using delay effects to stretch his tones and imaginings. […] With Manfred Eicher producing, hence ECM’s incomparable sound, ‘Once Around the Room’ was recorded at Village Recording in Copenhagen 10 years to the day after Motian died in 2011. A tribute fit for a percussive giant.
Robert Baird, Stereophile
No one tries to imitate Motian, which would be insultingly ridiculous, but the tribute is felt, as the drums loosely guide guitar and tenor on the intuitive ‘As It Should Be’ and the beat floats and hovers under Lovano’s tenor and reflective guitar on ‘Pause’. There are abstract declarations on the bluesy and post modern ‘Sound Creation’ and the pulse delicately gets reverent on ‘Song To An Old Friend’, while things get frisky and aggressive when Lovano switches to taragato on the ascerbic ‘Drum Music’. Rhythms that are felt like a jogger’s pulse.
George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
Eine kongeniale Hommage: Gängige Konventionen mit ebenso störrisch-kreativem Eigensinn ignorierend wie ihr langjähriger Weggefährte, gestalten Gitarrist Jakob Bro und Tenorsaxofonist Joe Lovano diesen Tribut an den legendären Schlagzeuger Paul Motian. Das beginnt bei der Besetzung: Ein Septett mit drei Bassisten und zwei Schlagzeugern schafft in je zwei Eigenkompositionen, einer Kollektivimprovisation und einer Interpretation von Motians ‘Drum Music’ mal traumverloren schwebende, gelegentlich auch heftig angerauhte Atmosphären. Diesen glorreichen Sieben gelingt das Kunststück, ihr Liniengeflecht ebenso dicht verwoben wie transparent, so offen wie subtil strukturiert klingen zu lassen.
Reinhold Unger, Münchner Merkur
Along with two Motian-influenced originals each by Bro and Lovano, the album includes a collective improvisation – on ‘Sound Creation’ – and an interpretation of Motian’s composition ‘Drum Music’. On the free tempo ‘As It Should Be’, the first of two pellucid compositions by the saxophonist, the thrumming basses of Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan begin proceedings. ‘Sound Creation’ begins lazily, in a slower free tempo, with Lovano’s tenor plus understated accompaniment. ‘Drum Music’ gets a fierce free jazz interpretation suffused with guitar feedback. The interpretation of Bro’s beautifully plangent ballad ‘Song For An Old Friend’ – the first piece on the album with a groove – explores the stylistic area of Lovano’s trio with Motian and Frisell. The guitarist also wrote the gentle, Frisell-like ‘Pause’, which makes for an affecting conclusion to a beautiful and richly rewarding release.
Andy Hamilton, Jazz Journal
Jakob Bro und Joe Lovano formulieren hier ein akustisches Bekennerschreiben für einen Mentor, dessen Inspiration beide auf unterschiedliche Weise geprägt hat. Lovano bezieht das Agieren dieses kleinen Orchesters in den Kopenhagener Studiosessions im November 2021 auf Motians regelmäßiges Joggen im New Yorker Central Park. In vergleichbarer Weise schreitet diese exzellente Band den Raum aus: ohne Eile, doch in konstanter Bewegung, bedacht immer neue Bilder produzierend, die in ausgewogener Runde entwickelt werden.   
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Grand Guitars
Zu dieser Hommage haben die beiden fünf Gäste aufgeboten, zwei Drummer und drei Bassisten. In Vollbesetzung haben die sieben Musiker ‘Sound Creation’ eingespielt, eine spannende Geschichte, die dem Musiker Motian nahekommt. Vom Komponisen Motian stammt ‘Drum Music’ – man bemerke auch hier die Essenz des Titels! -, während je zwei weitere Kompositionen von Bro und Lovano stamen. Lovanos liebevoller Komposition ‘For the Love of Paul’ folgt Bros ergreifender ‘Song to An old Friend’. Die Sound-Kreation im Geist dieses einzigartigen Klangmalers der Perkussion ist gelungen, im Kollektiv wie in den Teilformationen.  
Ruedi Ankli, Jazz’n’More
Es ist ein spannendes, weil schwieriges Album, das einen zu 40 Minuten Höchstkonzentration nötigt. Weil die Stimmung, die Jakob Bro und Joe Lovano gemeinsam mit drei (!) Bassisten (Larry Grenadier, Thomas Morgan, Anders Christensen) und zwei Drummern (Joey Baron, Jorge Rossy) generieren, ständig kippt. Sie kontrastieren ekstatisch bordelnde Tutti mit filigranen Klanggespinsten, deren atmender Fluss ferne Echos von Paul Motian trägt, dem dieses Opus gewidmet ist. Man ringt mit der subtil differenzierten Klangpracht in atemloser Begeisterung.  
Sven Thielmann, Stereo
Bro und Lovano luden für die Sessions drei Bassisten und zwei Drummer nach Kopenhagen ein. Stücke wie das von Lovano konzipierte zehnminütige ‘For The Love Of Paul’ oder die kollektive ‘Sound Creation’ verschneiden den sensiblen Feingeist und die chaotisch anmutende und doch raffiniert strukturierte Unruhe, die für Paul Motian typisch waren. […] Mit ‘Drum Music’ findet sich auch ein Werk aus Motians eigener Feder auf diesem faszinierenden Album – mit Joey Baron und Jorge Rossy an den Drumkits. Bro und Lovano improvisieren hier über dem Donnergrollen der Schlagzeuger mit leidenschaftlicher Hingabe.  Das Ganze ist ein großes Erlebnis.  
Jens-Uwe Sommerschuh, Sächsische Zeitung
Ein ungewohnt und groß besetztes Ensemble, das trotzdem sensibel und transparent rüberkommt – so wie es der gefeierte Schlagzeuger nun mal bevorzugte. Gitarrist Jakob Bro versucht hier erst gar nicht Motians Favoriten Bill Frisell zu ersetzen, sondern geht eigene Wege: mal mit warmem aber klaren Ton, dann mit verfremdeten E-Gitarrenklängen, die sich im letzten Albumtrack ‘Pause’ in tefen Hallräumen und ein paar wunderschönen Arpeggios auflösen. Hier waren sensible Musiker und Könner mit großem Respekt an der Arbeit. Ein beeindruckendes, modernes Jazz-Album.
Lothar Trampert, Gitarre und Bass
A deeply felt and utterly original homage to a common inspiration and beloved colleague – the late, great drummer-composer Paul Motian – Once Around the Room is also the first album co-led by the Danish guitarist Jakob Bro and US saxophonist Joe Lovano. Bro conceived of a special band for the project, convening what Lovano calls “a mini orchestra” for the Copenhagen studio session, which took place 10 years to the date since Motian died in 2011, at age 80. The textured septet features three bassists (Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan each on double-bass, plus Anders Christensen on bass guitar) and two drummers (Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy), all players who have worked together in various combinations as well as recorded for the label in recent years. Along with two Motian-influenced originals each by Bro and Lovano, Once Around the Room includes a group improvisation and an especially dynamic rendition of a vintage Motian composition: “Drum Music.” The previous ECM work by both of the co-leaders has been widely praised, with The New Yorker declaring that “Lovano can render a musical phrase into a poem”, and DownBeat noting that Bro’s guitar is luminous… his music both hypnotic and dramatic.”
Lovano – who toured and recorded in Motian’s peerless trio with guitarist Bill Frisell for three decades (1981-2011) – explains the new album’s title: “Paul would jog most every day around the reservoir in New York City’s Central Park, and he had a tune referencing that ritual called ‘Once Around the Park.’ And for our Copenhagen recording, we were all gathered together in a sort of circular situation in the studio, so it felt like we were going around the room as we played the pieces and took solos.” Musing on what he learned from working so intimately with Motian, Lovano added: “What I think about every time I’m on the bandstand or in the studio is something I really gleaned from Paul: that music should be about deep breathing and close listening. You should lead and follow at the same time, share the space and let the music carry you. It’s not about demonstrating your instrumental virtuosity as much as it’s about the art of improvising, being in the moment and really present with the music. “
Bro, who made his ECM debut on Motian’s Garden of Eden album, says: “What I loved so much about Paul’s music was its aesthetic sensibility, both in the way that he played and the way that he composed. Whether he was playing his own music or standards, it was always clear that it was Paul Motian. The way he put people together and organized his bands was also inspiring. Most personally, the harmonic universe of Paul’s compositions was vital in my search for something individual in my own song writing. Gradually, I moved from my tunes being directly related to Paul’s to where I could connect his influence and ideas to more of a Nordic tone. I started relating to the music of my childhood, whether it was psalms or folk tunes, and began building bridges between the worlds of my various influences. Paul’s inspiration helped lead me to develop my own voice.”
Bro first worked with Lovano in 2009, when the saxophonist joined the guitarist’s trio with Anders Christensen and drummer Jakob Høyer for a three-night stand at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse. “I had been fascinated with Joe for as long as I remember: his sound, his rhythmic feel, his sense of expression,” Bro explains. “I always hear the deep history of jazz in Joe’s playing. But at the same time, he has his own tone and approach to music. His world of harmony points forward, too.” Lovano returns the compliment, referencing the younger guitarist’s sound – the harmonic shimmers, tolling lines and looped atmospherics. “Jakob is in many ways a great disciple of Bill Frisell, but he has his own vision of music and of life,” the saxophonist says. “He’s not ‘a lead guitar player,’ as such – although he can definitely go there. His thing is more of an orchestral sound, very creative. And he really was instrumental in the conception of this album.”
Lovano’s compositions for Once Around the Room include the twelve-tone, drone-laced piece “As It Should Be” (whose title nods obliquely to “It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago,” the classic title track to the Motian/Lovano/Frisell trio’s first album, released by ECM in 1985). That tune, and Lovano’s evocative tribute “For the Love of Paul,” both make excellent use of roiling double drums to heighten the ensemble dynamism; the piece also includes some of Lovano’s most affecting playing on the album, plus a pealing solo by Bro. The guitarist wrote the balladic “Song To An Old Friend” (with Lovano carrying most of the melody), as well as the folk-like “Pause,” where Bro’s intimate playing weaves within the undertow of basses. “Sound Creation,” the group improvisation arranged from an initial idea by the saxophonist, explores the ensemble’s orchestral sound in an atmospheric way, with all the interwoven melodies invented in the moment (and Lovano trading his tenor sax midway to add a line on tarogato, his Eastern European reed instrument).
For the album’s lone Motian composition, “Drum Music,” Baron and Rossy feature both alone and together; the performance also includes one of Bro’s grittiest solos on record, which Lovano matches with a squalling solo of his own. “ ‘Drum Music’ was something of a theme tune for Paul’s trio with me and Bill,” the saxophonist says. “We would usually play it at the end of a set, sometimes just the theme and sometimes leaping off from it. On this record, we really dig into it! It’s a powerful piece of music.”
Reflecting on the session for Once Around the Room, Bro concludes: “Given the number of musicians in the group and everybody’s busy schedule, what are the odds, finally agreeing of on a date that we could all do and then it happens to be same date as Paul left us? It was miraculous that everyone made it to Copenhagen in the era of Covid – Joe flew in from Paris, Larry from London, Thomas from New York, Jorge from Switzerland and Joey from Berlin, joining me and Anders here. It felt almost surreal when we were all gathered and ready to record – and yet there was such a warm and open atmosphere in the studio. We all had a connection with Paul, and it felt like he was in the room with us somehow.”
Once Around The Room was recorded in Copenhagen at The Village Recording studio in November 2021. The album was produced by Manfred Eicher.

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