Jason Moran's Ten
This is also the trio’s first album that’s not geared to a concept. It flits across the musical map, from originals to pieces by Monk, Leonard Bernstein, the avant-garde classical composer Colin Nancarrow, and Moran’s late mentors, Jaki Byard and Andrew Hill.
Moran, just 32, plays in styles alternately bluesy, elegiac, balladic, funky—and at once adventurous, lyrical, and original throughout. I know of no jazz pianist since Don Pullen who stretches rhythm as elastically, or with such casual intensity, and with Pullen you could draw a line between the verses and his solo; Moran merges the two. Listen to “Blue Blocks” or “Big Stuff,” where he speeds up the tempo, alters the chords, and crafts a whole new melody, then cranks it back down, then sometimes back up again, seamlessly, at will, if not whim.
Meanwhile, his triomates have caught up with him. Previous Bandwagon albums and live concerts have struck me as sessions of Jason Moran with accompaniment. On Ten, we hear a coherent, nearly isosceles triangle, each player darting his own course, weaving in and out of each other’s path, yet never snapping or entangling the string connecting them. Waits seems to have learned a few tricks from Paul Motian, pushing and pulling with and against Moran’s rhythms; Mateen navigates between them, anchoring the two. It’s thrilling.
The sound quality is very fine: dynamic, well balanced, tonally true.