Those who heard the Blue Note New Directions show at Motor last month will recognize no doubt with a rush of blood to pleasure centers of the brain the lineup of pianist Jason Morans debut disc as a leader. Theres alto sax colossus Greg (the wizard of) Osby, new jazz thinker for the millennium. And postmodern vibes ghostbuster Stefon Harris. Along with Moran, theyre the main movers of Blue Notes renaissance, giving this set a scintillating aura reminiscent of Osbys work with pianist-composer Andrew Hill. Moran, who once studied with Hill himself, has been with Osbys band since 1997.
The opening track, "Gangsterism on Canvas," has that bittersweet-melodic, Andrew Hill feel resonating down long corridors of blue. But Moran soon moves into his own repertoire, shocking our preconceptions with a take on the third movement of Ravels piano suite, "Le Tombeau de Couperin." A 20th century French composer quoting and paying homage to another from the 18th century seems like dubious material for American jazz, but Moran blends the theme into lush chords à la McCoy Tyner, turning the piece into a lyrical, lilting dance.
His mining of the sparser formats continues on "Kinesics," a halting, darkly virtuosic solo, and the resurgent "Release from Suffering," which showcases exquisite support from Lonnie Plaxico (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). The larger group tracks with Osby and Harris layer and distribute the interaction of the soloists, so that everybody contributes but nobody takes the reins from Moran, who is far and away the emotional focus of this record.
Student that he was of Hill, Jaki Byard and Muhal Richard Abrams, Jason Moran has nevertheless emerged with his own sound and a remarkable intelligence, an ear for the full range of piano literature and breathtaking chops. The magic dancing in your head starts here.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.