Jason Moran's Ten

Jason Moran’s Ten (Blue Note) commemorates the 10th anniversary of his trio called Bandwagon (with Tarus Mateen on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums), and it’s by far the group’s best recording, maybe Moran’s best all told, which, if so, would mean it surpasses his 2002 solo disc, Modernistic, which is saying a lot. Whether it does or not (I’m still mulling), this is a great album, that much is certain.

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.

J. Schwar's picture

I've been listening to this album for a week or so -- it is terrific. I love Moran's ending to Monk's Crepuscule with Nellie -- it is very witty and for some reason reminds me of the ending of Carl Nielsen's symphony number 6, a laughing in the face of death kind of thing. The Jaki Byard song is quite a ride also.One question: Is the bass on this album an electric bass? It is done quite well, but on whole I think I prefer the sound of an acoustic bass.

Fred Kaplan's picture

J. Schwar - I'm pretty sure it's an acoustic bass, but it's almost certainly plugged into a pick-up amp. I don't know how this album was recorded but usually under these circumstances, the engineer mikes the amp and the bass directly, then (sometimes with input from the producer and/or the artist) comes up with a mix. It could be that, on this album, the mix favored the feed from the amp...Fred

J. Schwar's picture

Thanks, Fred, your answer about how the bass was recorded makes sense.

Tim F.'s picture

Hi Guys,Tarus Mateen uses a Marco acoustic bass guitar, which has a very different sound from a bass viol. Generally, these instruments lack the "wood" sound of the upright bass, which may be what J. Schwar is hearing. Photos of the instrument can be found here:http://www.citizenjazz.com/Jason-Moran-Bandwagon.html??id_document=3724

J. Schwar's picture

Interesting picture showing the bass guitar - I knew something sounded different in the bass department. Thanks Tim.