REVIEW Jason Moran's "Ten" (NY Times)

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Wednesday June 23, 2010

from The New York Times

JASON MORAN “Ten” (Blue Note)
By Nate Chinen

Jason Moran’s new album lands with an accumulated weight, both intrinsic and external. The external part has to do with his stature as a jazz pianist of rare institutional approval: a recipient of commissions and fellowships, a collaborator of choreographers and visual artists, a mixed-media conceptualist. The intrinsic part has to do with the decade-long experience of his trio, the Bandwagon, and his attendant growth as a bandleader.

The intrinsic part is what matters. It’s what nudges ‘Ten’ toward a spirit of greatness. This is a product of sturdy intelligence and untroubled confidence driven by the inseparable commitment of Mr. Moran and his fellow Bandwagoneers, the drummer Nasheet Waits and the bassist Tarus Mateen. Their rapport, distinctive from the start, now suggests a model of lithe collectivism. Mr. Moran’s piano forms the core of the group, but its sound is inconceivable without the thumbprints of Mr. Mateen, with his nimble, nubby bass guitar style, and Mr. Waits, with his earthy mutable approach to rhythm.

And the songs on ‘Ten,’ the covers especially, have been fixtures of the trio’s repertory long enough to be fully metabolized. There’s a smartly reinvented player-piano piece by Conlon Nancarrow (‘Study No. 6,’ in two versions) and songs by the jazz pianists Jaki Byard (‘To Bob Vatel of Paris’), Thelonious Monk (‘Crepuscule With Nellie’) and Andrew Hill (‘Play to Live,’ written with Mr. Moran). ‘Nobody,’ a hidden track, was the theme for Bert Williams, the minstrel star. ‘Big Stuff,’ a bluesy stroll, was composed by Leonard Bernstein for the Jerome Robbins ballet ‘Fancy Free’ and recorded by Billie Holiday.

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