Online since August 2002

Moran crafting his own sound

From the Winter 2002 issue.

By Jason Moran

Blue Note Records: 2002

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All these young jazz piano men are going along in a boat similar to the one in which the up and coming lady jazz vocalists float: packed tight with major talent, gunwhales overflowing, standing shoulder-to-shoulder from stem to stern.

But Jason Moran has begun to climb the mast toward the crow's nest, to shout out out in his own a distinctive voice. A percussive voice, in the Monk/Ellington/Powell mode, with new millennium Moran shadings.

On "Black Stars" – his previous CD on Blue Note that teamed him with the venerable saxophonist Sam Rivers – Moran garnered several "best of year..." nods. Now he offers up a solo piano outing, with "Modernistic."

The opener is "You've Got to Be Modernistic." A theme of sorts, but this particular tune is more than fifty years old, a lively and urgent take on Jame P. Johnson's (the father of stride piano) early twentieth-century musings. Moran attacks. Reverence combined with a pushing-the-envelope feel for the "Modernistic," featuring a dark, heavy left-hand rhythm combined with a light free flowing right-hand improvisation.

Very few pianists can carry a solo outing. Moran is one of them. He mixes Johnson's stride with his own edgy and accoustically electrified compostions, throws in some classical Schumann; plays a lovely ballad, and some ragtime, and even dons something of a hip hop hat, and brings in a tinny-sounding toy piano, too. He's a man with the American musical spirit in him, and it obviously has to come out. Sounds a hundred years old and spanking new, simultaneously.

In that boat full of talented jazz piano men, Jason Moran is climbing the mast, has his hand on the lip of the crow's nest.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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