Thursday, July 08, 2010

Jason Moran - Ten (Blue Note, 2010)

Celebrating their tenth anniversary as a unit called The Bandwagon, the trio led by Jason Moran on piano, with Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums has covered a lot of ground. This album is a fine collection of music, drawing on some of the work Moran has done for special projects like writing for dance and his Monk at Town Hall revival, but the focus is on his knotty trio improvisation with overtones of masters like Andrew Hill and Jaki Byard. The trio moves gracefully through a generous selection of music spotlighting their trio interplay but also containing solo space for Moran to break out on his own. Highlights of the album include the opening track, "Blue Blocks" which begins slowly, developing a cascading melody before settling into subtle cooperative trio improvisation. The band then builds to a faster, more full-bodied and robust feel. Moran has studied Thelonious Monk considerably and the performance of Monk's "Crepuscule With Nellie" is a highlight of this album. The begin slowly and almost reverently, building an improvisation off of the familiar Monk melody centered around Moran's rich and slightly melancholy piano tone. The trio drifts away, dream-like, into a slow and spacious ending. One consistency over Jason Moran's recording career is the idea of gangsterism, especially with regards to art. "Gangsterism Over 10 Years" celebrates the trio's decade together, and is the centerpiece of the album. Beginning with a fast, nimble fade-in, the group embarks on athletic up tempo jazz improvisation. Building to a potent and inventive climax, they then ratchet down the dynamic to a subtle section, echoing the work of Ahmad Jamal. "Feedback, Part 2" features Moran improvising against abstract electronics, giving the music a vast and open feeling. Elements of stride piano and swing predominate "To Bob Vatel of Paris" which juxtaposes strutting trio swing with driving and complex modern jazz improvisation. The appropriately titled "The Subtle One" and "Play to Live" are delicate and lush ballads featuring deft bass and drum work supporting Moran's finespun sense of timing and melody. This was a well crafted album of modern piano trio jazz. Drawing inspiration from the past masters and their own innate sense of musical development, the group has developed their own unique sound that is dexterous yet forthright and honest. Ten -

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