Jason Moran - Artist in Residence (Blue Note, 2006)
Jason Moran is one of the most interesting young musicians on the scene today, grounded in the innovations of his mentors Andrew Hill and Jaki Byard, Moran still reaches for fresh and innovative approaches like using subtle electronics and sampling. This album doesn't have the unified concept of some of his previous albums, rather there is a diverse approach that finds Moran's core trio (the leader on piano with Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums) joined by vocalists and speakers both sampled and live, and special guests like trumpeter Ralph Alessi and guitarist Marvin Sewell. What this album amounts to is a mixed bag of material that Jason Moran has written as grant-funded projects from arts organizations. They demonstrate the diverse nature of Moran's writing but the wildly divergent nature of the different tracks keeps the music from developing into a coherent album.
"Break Down" and "The Artists Ought to be Writing" have the Moran trio improvising while sampled spoken pronouncements from artist Adrian Piper are sampled into the mix. It's an interesting concept, but the sampled dialogue seems stiff next to the flowing and dynamic music. An operatic composition "Milestone," seems a little out of place as well. As much as I respect his experimental tracks, it's the more traditional tracks that I feel work best on this album. "Lift Every Voice" featuring guitarist Sewell who was stellar on Moran's album Same Mother is wonderful here, propelling the band on a bluesy gospel groove. Also, the complex freebop of "RAIN" echoes the thoughtfully exploratory music of Hill and Byard in a lengthy performance. The open mindedness at work here is too be commended and it will be interesting to see where Moran takes his music next.