Jason Moran

Artist in Residence | Blue Note
By JOHN GARELICK  |  January 22, 2007
3.5 3.5 Stars
"How can an abstract jazz artist say clearly how they feel and make an audience understand?” That’s the question Moran asks in the liner notes to Artist in Residence. He answers in 10 pieces variously for solo piano, piano and voice (his wife, the operatic soprano Alicia Hall Moran), trio, quartet, quintet, spoken-word samples, and “found” percussion. They’ve been assembled from commissioned pieces originally performed at Lincoln Center, Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, and the Dia:Beacon Museum on the Hudson. It’s jazz as performance art (several pieces were part of multimedia events), but abstract art has never felt warmer or more outgoing. In some cases, it’s not even that abstract. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” is gently deconstructed, and Moran returns to slowly morphing motoric rhythms, full-bodied melodies, and his own daunting fingerwork. As in his past experiments, a piano line will mimic the rhythm and pitch of a repeated spoken sample, to good effect. (The hook of “Break Down” is based on the one-two hip-hop punch of the spoken title.) Yes, it’s all about process and art for art’s sake, but also about ring shouts, and blues, and identity. If we didn’t know that the “percussive” scratching accompanying Moran’s beautiful elaboration on Carl Maria von Weber’s “Cradle Song” was pencil on paper meant to recall the sound of his late mother’s note taking while he practiced, would it matter?

Jason Moran and The Bandwagon | Regattabar, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St | February 1 | 617.395.7757
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