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Jason Moran: Facing Left

Mark Corroto By

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As I remembered it from world history, it is rarely the revolutionaries that end up ruling after their coup. The same can be said of jazz revolutionaries. Buddy Bolden, perhaps the father of jazz, never recorded. Charlie Parker, father of the bebop revolution, died at age 34 never attaining mass popularity in his lifetime. Even the young lions of the 1980s who overthrew the fusion doldrums seem forever bound to be merely hard-bop repertory bands. It might not be the ‘children’ of Wynton Marsalis’ neo-classicism that make jazz relevant again. I suggest that future jazz innovators for this new century will be musicians with an ear for today’s popular music (think about Sonny Rollins love of a show tune) that can speak to modern listeners. Jason Moran, a classically trained pianist whose street-jazz is descended from the revolution of Brooklyn’s M-BASE, is poised to be a prime mover for a new jazz vogue.

Schooled at the piano of Jaki Byard, Andrew Hill, and Muhal Richard Abrams, Moran joined Greg Osby for the 1997 recording Further Ado and last year’s New Directions band. Taking cues from his mentors, Moran chooses to be an original voice. It’s as if he were built out of genetic material taken from Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, and Don Pullen. His second album as a leader follows up last year’s Soundtrack To Human Motion, a bold statement of original compositions. As hinted on Sountrack, his promise is fully realized in a trio setting. As a composer he opts for dissonance not to distract, but to focus the listener. His notes, sometimes unresolved, speak of his precocious nature. Like Monk, he is developing his own language of jazz. But he is a Thelonious of his own time, covering the pop singer Bjork’s “Joga” in the tradition of Keith Jarrett playing from his standards albums. He also takes on hip-hop sampling, but not in mindless beats. He plays a loop of notes (“beats”) embellishing upon the symmetry. He covers two seldom heard Ellington compositions, “Later” and “Wig-Wise” as perhaps proof that his concept of 21st century jazz is consistent with last centuries innovators. There’s also two movie soundtrack covers: one from a Kurosawa film, the other a march from Godfather II. Strange but not odd, unique but thoroughly logical, Moran is poised to rule jazz for a long time to come.

Track List:Later; Thief Without Loot; Joga; Wig Wise; Yojimbo; Another One; Lies Are Sold; Murder Of Don Fanucci; Twelve; Three Of The Same Are Different; Fragment Of A Necklace; Battle Of Cattle Acts; Gangsterism On Wood.


Title: Facing Left | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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