Album review: Jason Moran's 'Ten'
Artistic rivalries are generally an overblown concept in music, something for obsessives to debate over drinks. Still, in the wake of the avalanche of acclaim received by pianist Vijay Iyer last year for his excellent trio album "Historicity," it's hard not to wonder if the similarly lauded Jason Moran is issuing a response with "Ten," a new album backed by his longtime rhythm section, the Bandwagon.
A startlingly gifted pianist with a relentless thirst for experimentation, Moran returns to a trio format after teaming with guitarist Marvin Sewell for two records, and the results are devastatingly sharp. Blasting out of a bluesy opening that briefly brushes against "Georgia on My Mind," "Blue Blocks" builds on a driving rhythm from drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen as Moran's keyboard flutters and gathers strength, finally resembling two pianos locked in a joyful duet. "Feedback Pt. 2" shows Moran's taste for sonic adventure remains intact as a Jimi Hendrix sample is twisted into a metallic whisper as the trio swirls through a ghostly, unsettling ballad.
Moran further honors his influences with a rollicking take on Jaki Byard's "To Bob Vatel of Paris" and "Play to Live," a contemplative, restless piece Moran wrote with Andrew Hill. Also offering takes on classical composers Conlon Nancarrow and Leonard Bernstein, "Ten" is an unpredictable, imaginative ride.
Of course, it's just a happy coincidence that Iyer and Moran would release such remarkable trio records in consecutive years, but imagining these two musicians pushing each other to new heights for years to come sure sounds good regardless.
-- Chris Barton
Three and a half stars (Out of four)
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