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Jason Moran Tops A Blog Supreme's Best Jazz of 2010

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Saturday December 04, 2010

From A Blog Supreme/NPR Jazz

Top 10 Jazz Albums Of 2010
By: Patrick Jarenwattananon

The jazz musician of 2010 has nearly 100 years of recorded jazz history to grapple with. This is both alarming and liberating: alarming because the task of coming to grips with your roots is bigger than ever, and liberating because there are so many exciting places to start doing so.

My favorite jazz records of 2010 often explicitly interacted with history. Perhaps the musicians were recasting jazz gems from the ’50s with their own language (Bill Carrothers, Mike Reed) or using predecessors’ aesthetics and sonic signatures as points of departure (Geri Allen, Jason Moran).

But just as often, musicians felt liberated to embrace whatever they felt like from outside the standard jazz narrative, from an Argentine folk composer (Guillermo Klein) to The Band (Fight the Big Bull) to hip-hop (Maurice Brown). This natural eclecticism also seems somehow appropriate to our age: If all recorded music ever is fair game, then why can’t it be on the jazz musician’s playground, too?

Of course, some great records reflected music history in less direct ways — they just were. Chris Lightcap and Mary Halvorson don’t get to play with their own bands nearly as much as they support others, but maybe their records this year will help change that. And Steve Coleman has been pioneering entire musical systems with a band called Five Elements for nearly 30 years; the latest recorded incarnation is a force to be reckoned with.

Jason Moran: Ten
It’s been The Year Of Jason Moran, with appearances on several great records (Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green, Ralph Alessi, Charles Lloyd), widespread mainstream press (NPR not excepted), and that whole MacArthur “genius grant” thing. All well and good, but TEN tops this list because the pianist has made possibly his best album yet. Whether sampling Jimi Hendrix’s feedback, writing for ballets and art museums, or channeling Thelonious Monk, Moran has a way of translating high-concept commissions and unexpected artistic choices into gutsy, gritty satisfaction. And when your band has been together 10 years, and sports Nasheet Waits and Tarus Mateen, your unusual language is spoken like a common vernacular, lived and breathed night after night. It’s a kind of magic, and it’s bottled here.

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