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Uncle Paul's Jazz Closet, Radio Show Dedicated to Late, Great Drummer
03/07/2014   Reported By: Jay Field
Paul Motian's Electric Be Bop Band Poster

Paul Motian is recognized as one of the most influential drummers, percussionists and bandleaders in jazz. Motian first came to prominence as a member of the the legendary Bill Evans Trio in the early 1960s. The drummer, who lived alone in a rent-controlled, New York apartment for most of his life, had no children of his own, but was especially close to his niece, Thomaston artist Cindy McGuirl. When he died in 2011, Motian left his estate and life's work with McGuirl, who, has started a radio show dedicated to keeping her uncle's jazz legacy alive.

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The Archives of Paul Motian "It's 9 o'clock and welcome to Uncle Paul's Jazz Closet. I'm going to start the show with a Zoot Simms tune from Jazz Alive! A Night At The Half Note."

That's Cindy McGuirl, who has the elements of today's show in front of her in the studio at community radio station WRFR in Rockland: that gig with Zoot Sims; Trio '64, Paul Motian's final record with Bill Evans; an unreleased album with another pianist, Joey Castro; some pages from the drummer's unpublished autobiography.

"Two weeks at the Dream Bar in Miami with Zoot Sims," said McGuril, on the air reading a selection from Paul Motian's autobiography. "March 31st, 1959 to April 12th, with a matinee on Sunday afternoon. Can I bring my wife? Sure. Most of the time, I tried to convince Sam to stay in our hotel room when I was playing. Our marriage was in bad shape. Sam was drinking heavily. She might create a scene if she came in the club."

"He was my mother's brother," McGuirl said.

We're at McGuirl's house now in Thomaston, inside her weaving and printmaking studio. Motion lived in New York. McGuirl grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island.

"You know, he would come visit," she said. "So we spent time with him. But he was on the road and traveling a lot. Kind of what I had with him was a really strong telephone relationship. We talked on the phone a lot, for years and years."

McGuirl spent more one-on-one time with Motian, who never had children of his own, in the final ten years of his life. The drummer had stopped touring, but was still gigging regularly in New York at the Village Vanguard and other clubs. Motian died in November 2011 of blood cancer.

"He made a will and, you know, tried put things in order. I was like, Oh, well, you've got to tell me what you want me to do. And he was like, Oh, you don't have to do anything! On the other hand, he saved everything."

So much archival material that McGuirl needed to rent storage space at an undisclosed location near the waterfront in Rockland to store and sort through it all.

The Records, Cassettes, CD and Percussion Instruments of Jazz Drummer Paul Motian"So like in here there's his drums and his cymbals," McGuirl said pointing to a stack of hard shell cases inside the Rockland office.

Personal, leather-bound journals, logs from recording sessions, recording contracts, Motian's stereo system and record collection, unreleased rehearsal cassettes, multiple drafts of his autobiography and scrapbooks from his tours and travels.

"This one I love....cause I think there's a misconception about fame and success and all that," she said.

McGuirl said Motian lived hand to mouth in the late '60s and early '70s. She reads from one of his scrapbooks.

"1977. I'm so far ahead my time that I'm an antique, before I'm a success," she said. "It costs $35 for a record and/or records that I recorded in the early '60s. But I can't get a gig for my band."

"Welcome back to Uncle Paul's Jazz Closet," McGuirl said on her show returning from a break. "And I'm going to read some more. In the summer of 1962, Gary Peacock became a member of the trio. Cannonball Adderlly recommended him."

Bill Evans, Garry Peacock and Paul Motian playing "Always" from the album Trio '64. Uncle Paul's Jazz Closet airs the first three Friday's of the month at 9:00 am on WRFR in Rockland.

Visit the blog for Uncle Paul's Jazz Closet

Photos by Jay Field.


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