Jason Moran (piano; b. 1975)
Ten (Blue Note; 2010)
Tarus Mateen (bass)
Nasheet Waits (drums)
Jason Moran--Artist and Innovator. While Thelonious Monk is an obvious influence, for me the spectre of the late Andrew Hill continually arises when I listen to Jason Moran. Like Hill, Moran explores everything within popular-art culture and what he eventually sends through the lens is something altogether special. Also like Andrew Hill, Jason Moran accomplishes this through developing big bold statements with each album.
With Ten (Bluen Note), Jason Moran has pretty much done it again. For me he continually produces exciting and challenging recordings that make you ask "why can't the others do this?" Well the others aren't Jason Moran. Ten is Moran's 8 album as leader. It finds him a jovial and creative mood with his longstanding trio of Nasheet Waits (drums) and Tarus Mateen (drums) and a celebration of just over 10 years with Blue Note Records. "Blue Blocks" opens with a nice dose of Sunday morning church roll call with very uplifting effect.
A number of the pieces on Ten were originally commissioned for concerts/exhibitions over the last few years. So its nice to hear some of this material for the first time on disc. "Feedback Pt.2" is one of those pieces and has loads of atmospheric effects mixed with Moran's classical side reminiscent of his material on the highly acclaimed Modernistic album. Moran also tackles one of his influences with an incredible reworking of "Crepusucle With Nellie" which for me makes this album worth owning out right.
For anyone not familiar with Jason Moran I would say this is the album to own. Jason's material while superior in every aspect is at times what I think most new listeners might want to investigate. The material is inviting while still challenging the order of things. This is evident of opus "Gangsterism Over 10 Years" which is probably the sequel to the related track from Modernistic "Gangsterism On Irons". It's uptempo and accessible yet still includes a complexed song structure.
Moran also extends tributes to two more influences, Leonard Bernstein on "Big Stuff" and "Play To Live". Both are dynamic in separate ways. "Big Stuff" is a pounding rendition from Bernstein's score for Fancy Free. "Play To Live" was co-written with the late Andrew Hill and highlights Moran's delicate touch on the keys and a quiet yet almost emotive backing from Mateen and Waits.
As I mentioned earlier Ten is probably the most engaging and accessible album for a new comer to Jason Moran. For the rest of us its more of the same brilliance he has brought over the last 10 plus years. This is highly recommended stuff that continually sets Moran apart from many other piano players of his generation. For me this is his second best record next to Modernistic, and definitely on my top five for the year.