Stephen Paul Motian (March 25, 1931 – November 22, 2011) was an American jazz drummer, percussionist, and composer. Motian was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. He is of Armenian descent. After playing guitar in his childhood, Motian began playing the drums at age 12, eventually touring New England in a swing band.
He first came to prominence in the late 1950s in the piano trio of Bill Evans, and later was a regular in pianist Keith Jarrett's band for about a decade (c. 1967–1976). Motian began his career as a bandleader in the early 1970s. Perhaps his two most notable groups were a longstanding trio of guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, and the Electric Bebop Band which featured the drummer working mostly with younger musicians doing interpretations of bebop standards.
Later in his career, Motian became an important composer and group leader, recording initially for ECM Records in the 1970s and early 1980s and then for Soul Note, JMT, and Winter & Winter before returning to ECM in 2005. From the early 1980s he led a trio featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, occasionally joined by bassists Ed Schuller, Charlie Haden, or Marc Johnson, and other musicians, including Jim Pepper, Lee Konitz, Dewey Redman and Geri Allen. In addition to playing Motian's compositions, the group recorded tributes to Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans, and a series of Paul Motian on Broadway albums, featuring original interpretations of jazz standards.
Motian died on November 22, 2011 at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital of complications from myelodysplastic syndrome.