Jason Moran is among a handful of modern pianists whose work often demands a listen as soon as it's released, since most other players will be trying to imitate it tomorrow. He doesn't quite meet those expectations on Same Mother
, an album heavy on blues and soundtrack elements that represents his sixth project as a leader. Partially this is his emphasis on a classic down-home Texas feel, but there's also a sense of a highly tuned engine coasting at a "mere'" 80 mph instead of passing the crowd at nefarious speeds.
He opens letting his left hand dominate with a rumbling bottom end on "Gangsterism On The Rise,'" the latest in a series of "Gangsterism'" songs dedicated to the Godfather movies. But neither the low end nor his sparse contrasting right-hand scream definitive statement. "Jump Up'" is a rock/blues jam introducing guitarist Marvin Sewell, the first guitarist Moran has recorded with as a leader. His electric lines are straightforward against some slightly off-the-meter work by Moran's longtime trio of bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, and Moran kicks in with some pounding toward the end that is so over-the-top it's almost comedic. But again, the revolution isn't at hand.
Lower-key compositions make up the album's best and flattest moments. Among the latter is "Aubade,'" a piano/guitar ballad resembling something GRP artists like David Benoit or Lee Ritenour would crank out on a good day. The subsequent "G Suit Salutation'" is much more capable, with an understated intensity building challengingly to the end as blues are fused with a variety of traditional and freer jazz styles.
The album goes to the next level toward the end, beginning with an alternating three- and four-beat swing mix on "Fire Waltz,'" with plucky and yet somewhat somber lines from Moran and Mateen. The underlying moodiness serves as a transition to "Field Of The Dead,'" where Moran's thick intensity and Mateen's rapid pickings across the range of his fretboard strive to capture the soundtrack of a woman looking for her fiancé among fallen soldiers. It's so complicated the tale can and should be envisioned through the notes alone; if this occurs against a visual backdrop, then both are too dilute for appreciation.
The mood remains for the album's duration, but the pace picks up with a final "Gangsterism On The Set,'" maybe just to leave the listener somewhat near the start of the journey.
Same Mother contains enough of a traditional and modern fusion of blues to make it worth hearing, especially for Moran fans who will also appreciate Sewell's change-of-space contribution. Those new to Moran not finding it quite up to hype may gain a better appreciation for his talentand hear this more respectfullyafter listening to 2002's solo Modernistic or 2003's live The Bandwagon.
Track Listing: Gangsterism on the Rise; Jump Up; Aubade; G Suit Saltation; I'll Play the Blues for You; Fire
Waltz; Field of the Dead (Alexander Nevsky); Restin; The Field; Gangsterism on the Set.
Personnel: Jason Moran: piano; Tarus Mateen: bass; Marvin Sewell, guitars; Nasheet Waits: drums.
Year Released: 2005
| Record Label: Blue Note Records
| Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream