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Jason Moran pays loving homage to Fats Waller on 'All Rise'

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Tuesday September 16, 2014

From Los Angeles Times

Jason Moran pays loving homage to Fats Waller on ‘All Rise’
By Chris Barton

In this risk-averse music industry, there’s never a shortage of tribute albums. But few carry the same vibrant sense of adventure as Jason Moran’s loving homage to one of pop music’s earliest heroes, Fats Waller.

Anyone familiar with Moran (whose last album, 2010’s “Ten,” topped a number of year-end lists) knows he’s as much an ambassador for jazz history as he is an advocate for the malleability of its future. In Moran’s hands, the early hip-hop of Afrika Bambaataa sits comfortably alongside stride piano workouts, and everything from the tapping of Thelonious Monk’s foot to a Turkish telephone call can fuel inspiration.

With production help from Don Was and Meshell Ndegeocello, Moran lifts Waller out of grainy archival footage and into high definition with splashes of simmering R&B and Fender Rhodes. Ndegeocello’s honeyed purr glides across “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and she sighs beautifully next to Moran’s piano on a sultry “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.” But this remains a jazz record, and Moran’s Bandwagon trio powers the zig-zag swing of “Lulu’s Back in Town” and a buoyant medley of “Sheik of Araby / I Found a New Baby.” Steve Lehman adds a swirling saxophone to a lush “Jitterbug Waltz,” and the show-stopping “Handful of Keys” faces a gathering storm from Moran’s left hand before the sidewinding melody returns, unscathed.

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