This album took a while to win me over, and it never fully succeeded. Its first five or six tracks were, frankly, a little boring in that maddening way that only piano trios can be boring. Leader Bernardo Sassetti seemed to be taking an approach to the keyboard, and the group sound, that was a little bit ECM and a little bit mid ’70s Billy Joel ballad. I was nodding off, despite the presence of bassist Carlos Barretto, whose Labirintos disc I had enjoyed so much only a couple of weeks ago. But it was just too damn placid and pretty. And Barretto’s barely heard a lot of the time.

The album this reminds me of the most is January, by the Marcin Wasilewski Trio, which came out a couple of years ago—yes, on ECM. He was a member of Tomasz Stanko’s group for some years, and the same delicate, make-each-note-count-but-don’t-wake-the-baby style heard on the trumpeter’s albums is heard here. But at some point, somewhere around the middle of Motion’s fifty-seven-minute running time, things get weird. A radio begins to intrude on the music for a few seconds at a time, just a slight interjection—bursts of classical pieces or pop songs, which lead straight into the next group performance. “MW 108.7 Revival” even filters a short performance by the trio so it sounds like it’s coming through a tiny radio speaker. That’s succeeded by “MW 104.5 Bicubic,” the single most energetic piece on the whole album, and then more radio. From then on, the pieces get shorter and weirder—drummer Alexandre Frazão starts to do more with the kit than he did in the disc’s first half, and Barretto begins to get riled up, and before long the trio is improvising together, rather than the rhythm players putting a solitary note or a whisk of the brush in place behind Sassetti, so gently it’s they’re trying to avoid setting off motion sensors. There’s even something like a groove on “Vagabundo.” The tracks are shorter, too—two to four minutes, rather than six to eight.

I like this kind of delicate piano music occasionally. But this is just a little too soft, too withdrawn. The tuning-the-radio gimmick was briefly diverting, but the album has to stand or fall based on the music, not production tricks, and I would have enjoyed Motion a lot more if it had lived up to its title—too often, it seems like it should have been called Stasis or Surface Tension.

Phil Freeman

1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Not really, no.

2. Should you buy this record? I gotta say no.

Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…

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