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Jason Moran’s third Blue Note release features the Facing Left trio in the company of Sam Rivers, incredibly robust at 77 years of age. It’s an all-acoustic outing this time around — no Fender Rhodes, no Hammond B-3. The presence of Rivers really brings out the fire in Moran and his colleagues, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits. There’s a live intensity to this session that wasn't as present on the previous one.
The repertoire on Black Stars is in part a continuation of what Moran began with Facing Left. There’s another obscure Ellington cover ("Kinda Dukish," with the trio), another Jaki Byard cover ("Out Front," for solo piano), and a third installment in Moran’s ongoing "Gangsterism" series — this one called "Gangsterism on a River." Rivers is heard on tenor for the most part, although he plays flute and soprano on "Summit," flute alone on "The Sun at Midnight," and piano and flute on the closing "Sound It Out." The moods and tempos vary widely, and the excitement peaks on Rivers’s "Earth Song," a piece that appeared on the rare 1974 big band record Crystals. Moran’s own writing displays exceptional depth and creative range, from the meditative piano/tenor duo "Say Peace" to the relentless 6/8 of "Draw the Light Out," one of his most unusual pieces to date.
A remarkably mature offering from the 26-year-old Moran, and a must-hear for fans of Sam Rivers as well.
Track Listing: 1. Foot Under Foot 2. Kinda Dukish 3. Gangsterism on a River 4. Earth Song 5. Summit 6. Say Peace 7. Draw the Light Out 8. Out Front 9. The Sun at Midnight 10. Skitter In 11. Sound It Out
Personnel: Jason Moran, piano; Sam Rivers, tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, piano (11); Tarus Mateen, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums