I’m just listening to the latest volume (#5) of Paul Motian’s ‘On Broadway’ series and I’m really struggling with it.  On the whole, like most of what Motian does, it’s really impressive, but the factor that is destroying it for me is the weird background growling of Motian’s Japanese piano player, Masabumi Kikuchi, whose vocal ‘contributions’ also wrecked Volume 4 of this series as far as I am concerned.


Masabumi Kikuchi – Moaning….

OK, so I’m a grown-up (groan-up?) and I know that this stuff has been going on for years, though why it seems to be a particular predilection for piano players (said he, alliteratively) is beyond me.  Monk, Errol Garner and Bud Powell to name but three all indulged in ‘singing along’  with themselves but whether it was the lesser quality of vintage recordings or some other issue, it never seemed too intrusive.  Nowadays when they are able to pick up a flea farting in a distant corner of the studio in full-on digital quadraphonic, these grumblings and mumblings are all the more apparent.

Of course, Keith Jarrett is the great hummer & groaner of the modern age, but I guess he has to be forgiven when he is in concert and in solo piano mode; it is after all the nature of his talent to pluck music from the ether and if we are sometimes surprised & moved by what he offers us,  I guess it’s only reasonable that he should be, too.


Keith Jarrett – Groaning…

However, if they now have the technology to clean up recordings by people like Caruso that were made on the most primitive of equipment, rendering them quite listenable, I am perfectly convinced that they have the technology to remove the horrible, tuneless groaning that Kikuchi inflicts on what is otherwise a typically high-quality Motian recording.  Like Volume 4 of this series, Volume 5 is heading for the exit door of my collection and it’s a shame. 

There would be no point in asking Jarrett about his Monica Seles grunting & groaning because he is allegedly such an impossible egotist that he would probably never concede how offputting some people find these extraneous noises.  However, I would like to ask Paul Motian why he didn’t have the engineers obliterate Kikuchi’s (much more unpalatable) groaning on these 2 records.  Can he really believe that these noises enhance the overall mood of the sessions?  Or is he just doing it to piss everyone off?   Answers on a postcard, please…….


2 responses to “Growlers…..

  1. Music is about passion after all… Let them groan away!

  2. Just saw the Paul Motian trio at the Vanguard. The growling was immense.

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