Racer Sessions

Sundays, 8-10pm at Cafe Racer in Seattle, WA

Gregg Belisle-Chi - April 28, 2013


I’m very excited to be curating my first Racer Session and want to thank everyone in the Racer community for the opportunity. Attending these sessions has been integral in my growth as an improviser/composer and I have been so very fortunate to play with such incredible musicians.

This Sunday’s Racer Session is inspired by and dedicated to Paul Motian (1931-2011.) Paul needs no introduction. His influence as a drummer, composer, and band leader are monumental and his growth as a musician, from his earliest recordings with the Bill Evans Trio to the numerous ensembles he worked with until his death in November 2011, is incomparable.


Paul was a fearless innovator with a deep understanding and respect for the jazz tradition. While the ensembles he led were often “unconventional” (the bass-less trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano or the Electric Bebop Band with 2 guitars and 2 saxophones) all of them performed and recorded profound interpretations of the standard repertoire, seemingly without any discrimination towards composer, era, or style.  His groups were all encompassing in song choice (originals or standards) and musical approach (freely improvising or playing strict swing time.)

He was an equally gifted composer. He wrote many memorable melodies, each with a unique identity. During the improvisation the melody is rarely abandoned, always being hinted at and referred to, which seems inherent in playing Paul’s music.

His role as a sideman was also greatly valued. His time-feel was deep, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of tunes, and his musical voice was unmistakable and always positively “colored” the ensemble. His musical choices always seemed to serve the music first and serve himself last, often playing an unwavering supportive role within the group.

This Racer Session I will be playing a mix of Paul’s tunes and my own compositions that I’ve dedicated to Paul. The goal of this endeavor was to challenge myself as a composer, improviser, and “bandleader.” This process has allowed me to take small steps towards becoming a more complete musician, as Paul was.  

I have no qualifications for the jam session to follow, but it is my hope to inspire people to investigate and inundate themselves with Paul’s music.

Joining me will be Andrew Swanson (tenor sax), Luke Bergman (Bass), and Chris Icasiano (drums).

Selected Recordings:

Paul Motian Trio: It Should’ve Happened A Long Time Ago, I Have The Room Above Her, Time and Time Again 

The Electric Bebop Band: Self titled, Europe, Holiday for Strings, Garden of Eden

With Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan, and Petra Haden: The Windmills of Your Mind

With Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Dewey Redman, and Geri Allen: Monk In Motian

With Bill Evans: Portrait in Jazz, Explorations, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Waltz for Debby

With the Bill McHenry Quartet: Self titled featuring Paul Motian, Roses, Ghosts of the Sun

With Charlie Haden and Geri Allen: Etudes

With Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, and Lee Konitz: Live at Birdland

With Enrico Rava:  New York Days