Jason Moran Black Stars Blue Note 32922 2001 09 11 Jason Moranís third Blue Note release features the Facing Left trio in the company of Sam Rivers, incredibly robust at 77 years of age. Itís an all-acoustic outing this time around ó no Fender Rhodes, no Hammond B-3. The presence of Rivers really brings out the fire in Moran and his colleagues, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits. Thereís a live intensity to this session that was somehow missing from the previous one. The repertoire on Black Stars continues what Moran began on Facing Left. Thereís another obscure Ellington cover ("Kinda Dukish," with the trio), another Jaki Byard cover ("Out Front," for solo piano), and a third installment in Moranís ongoing "Gangsterism" series ó this one the metrically modified "Gangsterism on a River." Rivers is heard on tenor for the most part, although he plays flute and soprano on "Summit," flute alone on "The Sun at Midnight," and piano and flute on the closing "Sound It Out." The moods and tempos vary widely, and the excitement peaks on Riversís "Earth Song," a piece that appeared on the rare 1974 big band record Crystals. Moranís own writing displays exceptional depth and creative range, from the meditative piano/tenor duo "Say Peace" to the relentless 6/8 of "Draw the Light Out," one of his most unusual pieces to date. A remarkably mature offering from the 26-year-old Moran, and a must-hear for fans of Sam Rivers as well. ~David R. Adler Songs: 1. Foot Under Foot 2. Kinda Dukish 3. Gangsterism on a River 4. Earth Song 5. Summit 6. Say Peace 7. Draw the Light Out 8. Out Front 9. The Sun at Midnight 10. Skitter In 11. Sound It Out Jason Moran, piano; Sam Rivers, tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, piano (11); Tarus Mateen, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums Jason Moran, Soundtrack to Human Motion (CD, 52:47) Blue Note 97431, 1999 Blue Note Records 304 Park Avenue South, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10010 Phone: 212-253-3000 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cyberhome: www.bluenote.com Can we all just agree that this is the debut of the year, if not the record of the year? Jazz has seen its share of excellent young players, but 24-year-old pianist Jason Moran really raises the bar with his superb Soundtrack to Human Motion. Moran explains the title as follows: "I like to think this recording could serve as the soundtrack to all movements a human might make in a given day . . ." If only my daily movements were anywhere near as graceful and beautiful and fascinating as this album. Moran has been recording as a sideman for a whopping . . . two years. Many struggle a lifetime to attain his level of mastery. With his piano playing no less than his writing and arranging, Moran has already crafted a distinctive jazz voice, and it shines through on this CD from the first note to the last. Innovative altoist Greg Osby, who gave Moran his start, served as his mentor, and produced this disc, appears as the sole horn. Joining Osby are Stefon Harris on vibes, Lonnie Plaxico on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. The entire ensemble is featured only on "Gangsterism on Canvas," "Still Moving," and "Aquanaut." Harris sits out for "Snake Stance," Osby for "Retrograde." Moran shifts to piano trio mode for "JAMO Meets SAMO," "Release From Suffering," and "States of Art," which begins with a solo rendition of Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin." The album closes with "Root Progression," a stellar duet between Moran and a soprano-blowing Osby. Moran employs his players very wisely, varying the combinations so that the sound of the record is never static, always in motion. Smack in the middle of the program, Moran plays a solo piece called "Kinesics." As I listened, an historical panorama of solo jazz piano came into view. Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Thelonius Monk-somehow Moran encompasses them all and utters a marvelous fin de siŤcle statement on jazz past and future, in a harmonic language all his own. No doubt Moran's imagination will take him down many interesting roads. His influences are drawn from art, literature, and theater, as well as from classical music all the way to hip-hop. This is a critical broad-mindedness, though, not an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to the creative enterprise. Moran simply knows talent for what it is, wherever it comes from. So when he mentions a desire to work with pop singer BjŲrk and hip-hop's MC Saafir, one gets the feeling he's not talking about some ordinary crossover project. Watch this man closely and see what develops. ~David R. Adler
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