Jason Moran: The Bandwagon (2003)
For his fifth Blue Note album, Jason Moran continues to build creative momentum. Once again, Moran stands as a conduit for a wide range of musical sources, from blues to classical to hip-hop to the Great American Songbook, often within the same song. His seemingly limitless vocabulary finds sympathetic support from two longtime collaborators, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits. The tracks on The Bandwagon come from a six-day run at the Village Vanguard, and Moran & Co. continually overflow with enthusiastic discovery.
Tunes from previous collections, new songs, and two pieces improvised based on sampled speech patterns make up the set list. A brief “Intro” leads into a jumped up version of “Another One,” originally from Facing Left (2000). The complex density races along at breakneck speed. Slowing things down with a little Brahms, “Intermezzo, Op. 118, No.2” receives a straight solo reading until the rhythm section joins and Mateen flies through the stately chording.
”Ringing My Phone (Straight Out of Istanbul)” uses a taped Turkish woman’s story as a rhythmic basis for a fascinating group improv. Even her punctuating laughter cues the musicians’ imaginations, resulting in a fitful original composition. Moran takes “Out Front,” from Black Stars (2001), and opens a whole new area of variations. Its near ragtime quality gets Monked up and stretched out with playful prodding from Waits and Mateen.
”Gentle Shifts South,” from Modernistic (2002), remains a pensive romantic solo piece, here augmented by samples of older Moran family members remembering others in their line. “Gangsterism on Canvas” swings hard and gives these three players a heated exchange before the subdued coda. “Body and Soul” shows the trio’s ability to work authentically with a standard while freely pursuing their own variations.
”Infospace” also successfully uses a looped speech pattern as a basis for improvisation, here it’s a Chinese stock report according to Moran. How else to end it but a new take on Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock”? Originally played solo on Modernistic, the piece gains power here from the robust rhythm section.
Each new release by Jason Moran re-emphasizes his stature as one of the most profoundly gifted and original musicians of our time. The future of jazz keeps looking brighter.
Track Listing: Intro; Another One; Intermezzo, Op 118, No. 2; Ringing My Phone (Straight Outta Istanbul); Out Front; Gentle Shifts South; Gangsterism on Canvas; Body & Soul; Infospace; Planet Rock
Personnel: Jason Moran, piano; Tarus Mateen, acoustic and electric bass; Nasheet Waits, drums