Mr. Motian, a drummer, bandleader, and composer of grace and abstraction, was one of the most influential jazz musicians of the last 50 years….
Mr. Motian was a link to groups of the past that informed what jazz sounds like today. He had been in the pianist Bill Evans’s great trio of the late 1950s and early 1960s and in Keith Jarrett’s so-called American quartet during the 1970s. But it was in the second half of his life that Mr. Motian found himself as a composer and bandleader, with work that could be counterintuitive or straightforward, runic or crowd-pleasing.
Stylish and alert — he wore sunglasses in the dark and laughed often and loudly — he worked steadily for decades, and for the last six years or so almost entirely in Manhattan. He had the support of the record producers Stefan Winter and Manfred Eicher, who released his music on the labels Winter & Winter and ECM, and of Lorraine Gordon, the proprietor and presiding spirit of the Village Vanguard, who booked him many times a year, either in his own groups or those of others. (In his 70s he grew tired of traveling, and anyway, he said, he preferred the sound of his drum kit at the Vanguard.)