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Jason Moran: Black Stars

C. Andrew Hovan By

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Among the current crop of jazzmen at the new Blue Note, Jason Moran just might be the most ambitious. At a time when it seems that much of the current crop of new releases will have limited shelf lives at best, Moran’s music strikes a more profound chord. At present, a shining star in Greg Osby’s current ensemble, Moran has released his own highly rewarding series of dates for Blue Note, with Black Stars arguably being his most audacious set to date.

There are certain guideposts that will be unmistakable to the trained ear, although this in no way should suggest that Moran is simply aping past styles. Andrew Hill and Jaki Byard are acknowledged influences, a point made further evident by the inclusion of a solo rendition of Byard’s “Out Front” and by having Sam Rivers in the role of lead horn. The wood flute on “Summit” might also suggest the kind of pan-ethnic experiments that Yusef Lateef led for Impulse back in the ‘60s. The Hill connection comes via Moran’s use of dark harmonies and edgy melodies as heard in “Gangsterism on a River” and a fluid sense of time made so apparent on “Draw the Light Out.”

In addition to Moran’s strong writing, major kudos to his standby rhythm section of bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits. Joe Marciano’s sound production is equally sturdy and luminescent. All in all, this sleeper may just turn out to be one of the strongest Blue Note releases to make the scene in quite some time.

Track Listing: Foot Under Foot; Kinda Dukish; Gangsterism on a River; Earth Song; Summit; Say Peace; Draw the Light Out; Out Front; The Sun at Midnight; Skitter In; Sound It Out

Personnel: Jason Moran - piano; Sam Rivers

Title: Black Stars | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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