Celebrating 15 years of excellence, Da Camera of Houston, one of the city's leading arts organizations brought Jason Moran to the Wortham Theater Center. Accompanied by bassist Tarus Mateen, drummer Nasheet Waits and the legendary saxophonist Sam Rivers, Jason jump started the evening with a prolific display of jazz magic. His approach to bop and bebop carries with it the influences of a classically trained musician, a style of jazz that continues to be ever-evolving for Moran. With Thelonious Monk as an influence, and his mentor the late Jaki Byard under tow, he and his band opened a musical dimension seldom seen by most standards. The first half of the evening was a titillating journey through his first three recordings. To cap the evening off, the group was later joined by Rivers, a saxman who has played with the likes of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Cecil Taylor, and a laundry list of other musicians since his career began in 1947. Overall, Jason Moran provided a modern approach, one that combined the legendary contributions of Sam Rivers with nuances of his own making, and help from his band of merry men. Incidently, Jason's fourth release is entitled Modernistic', a unique solo effort featuring six original compositions and five additional avant-garde and classical influenced tracks. His performance on February 28th was reflective of all that and what he has come to know as a musician.
Classically trained while growing up in Houston, Jason honed his skills as a pianist at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He later moved to New York to study with Jaki Byard at the Manhattan School of Music. He also studied under the tutelage of Herbie Nichols and Muhal Richard Abrams. Since his debut release in 1999 entitled 'Soundtrack to Human Emotion,' Jason Moran has toured Europe and recorded with Cassandra Wilson, Greg Osby, Lonnie Plexico, Stefon Harris, Mark Shim and Steve Coleman to name a few. As an innovator, Jason's classically influenced style has captivated the world with a new found source of jazz activated energy. As has been seen everywhere he has performed, the audience at Houston's Wortham Theater was re-introduced to Jason's impeccable talent. This was the pianist's second visit to Da Camera's jazz season, and just one of many stops he has made in a short span of time. Not yet 30 years of age, Moran has had a tremendous impact on America's only original art form. He brings to bear something that is seldom seen by many of today's standards. He offers a dynamic freshness that has a voice which is different from any other. With that in mind, the world may be seeing the making of a jazz legend. In an environment that has been marred by inconsequential jazz, there is optimism in Jason Moran's music. Those of us who have seen him live and have experienced his multi-faceted array of stylized skills are poised to observe musical history in the making. It is refreshing to know that jazz as an art form is alive and well.