(Jason Moran – piano; Marvin Sewell – guitar; Tarus Mateen – bass; Nasheet Waits – drums; Alicia Hall Moran – vocals; Adrian Piper – sampled voice; Joan Jonas – percussion (bells, shakers, toy car, claves); Abdou Mboup – djembe, kora, talking drum; Ralph Alessi – trumpet)
In his seventh album to date Moran shows he’s a real risk-taker in taking jazz in new and unique directions. In one year he got commissions from three different top arts institutions in the U.S. and this disc samples some of the music which he created for these exhibits and events. Moran looks for his inspiration to the wider worlds of not just music for also the fine arts.
The first two tracks come from a musical-theatrical piece for Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center. It features conceptual artist and philosopher Adrian Piper, who is heard speaking on the first track. The piano and ensemble support the catchy sampled voice of Piper, talking about various problems that need to be broken down. The highly rhythmic work is sort of like hip-hop but so much more musical and artistic. For the second selection from the Art Center work, Moran’s wife, soprano Alicia Hall Moran, is heard in what sounds like a modern art song or lieder, with a long instrumental section. Reflection 2 starts with an impressionistic, atmospheric backing for Moran’s improvisations on the piano. It is later followed by Reflection 1 which features a sound effect recordings I couldn’t identify, and percussion accompaniment. Another of Moran’s actuality recordings is used with his rather straightforward and Schumannesque Cradle Song. It appears to be the sounds of his child in the cradle. The music reminded me of Billy Joel’s venture into Romantic classical piano pieces.
A bass ostinato continues thruout Arizona Landscape, with a trotting sort of rhythm over which Moran improvises. Without sounding like he is copying Copland, Moran paints a fine impression of his subject. RAIN is the longest track, featuring a repeated theme on trumpet. The sound effects mixed in here are also not identifiable by me, but as they picked up in speed the music tempo increased to match them. The closing He puts on his coat and leaves is some subtle piano improvisations with little accompaniment. I felt the sound effects would have been more easily discerned if the album was recorded in surround sound or even binaurally. But it ‘s a fascinating showcase of the 31-year-old musician’s all-encompassing talents.
Break Down (Jason Moran)
Milestone (Alicia Hall Moran)
Refraction 2 (Jason Moran)
Cradle Song (Julian Lloyd Webber)
Artists Ought to be Writing (Jason Moran)
Refraction 1 (Jason Moran)
Arizona Landscape (Jason Moran)
RAIN (Jason Moran)
Lift Every Voice (James & John Johnson)
He puts on his coat and leaves (Jason Moran)
– John Henry