Now, after recording six Blue Note albums, Jason Moran, approaching 30 years of age, has developed such a personal relationship with the piano that it has become his better known voice, one that’s as recognizable when Moran plays as the speech patterns of most other human beings when they speak. After all, who can recall anything that Jason Moran has ever said,
in contrast to someone like Wynton Marsalis or Don Byron. Moran being reserved and dignified at the keyboard when in concert, who would guess from the placidity of his demeanor that such turbulence dwells within?
But the keyboard releases it. Moran puts to music his observations of art works, not to mention his feelings about them. Architecture inspires him. Paintings inspire him. Dance inspires him. Street sounds inspire him. Literature inspires him. Oral history inspires him. Cinema inspires him. Nature inspires him. Even the human voice inspires him as yet another form of art. Omnivorous in his interests as he absorbs the stimuli that inform human life, Moran catalyzes all of the elements he receives and transforms them into his own artistic statements, supported usually by his like-minded Bandwagonmen Tarus Mateen and Nasheet Waits. Even as he surges ahead to advance the language of jazz with his own brand of propulsiveness and temporal elasticity, Moran strangely enough continues to root his work in the past, realizing that the struggles of his forebears made possible the music that he plays today. And so, Moran may slip in a dash of Duke Ellington or more than a little bit of Jaki Byard or a sly reference to Andrew Hill, paying coded tribute to other innovators of the piano. Or he may honor his family’s history, and beyond that, the atmosphere of the South in which his grandparents and great-grandparents lived by merging it with modern sensibility.
Glimmers of the Moran family’s past appeared on his last CD, Bandwagon,
when recordings of his ancestors provided spoken recollections for the music that Moran’s trio played. But now with the release of Same Mother,
Moran is allowing the feel of deep South blues to infuse the entire recording. To accomplish this, Moran has added for the first time a guitarist, Marvin Sewell, who has colored some of Cassandra Wilson’s Blue Note recordings with a similar sense of languorous blues. This approach is quite a change for Moran, who has temporarily abandoned the breakneck speeds of some of his earlier works as the trio, a single unit, amazingly accelerates and decelerates with the nod of Moran’s head and the force of his hands. But Moran’s aggressiveness remains.
That surging, uncontainable energy becomes evident on the first track, "Gangsterism On The Rise," yet another installment in Moran’s Gangsterism series inspired by The Godfather, Parts I and II.
With a stomping, infectious beat played at the very bottom of the keyboard, Moran animates the piece in much the same way that New Orleans street marchers do with a rhythm derived from dance that in turn inspires dance. The next track, "Jump Up," utilizes, surprisingly for Moran, a shuffle beat, and with the addition of Sewell, the music becomes a modified blues, widely accessible and brightly illuminated. The touchstone of the album, Albert King’s "I’ll Play The Blues For You," recalls King’s relationship with the Morans as two of Jason’s uncles played with King’s band and thus, inspired Moran to choose a musician’s life from all of the artistic possibilities that his parents presented to their family. Even though Sewell lightly accompanies Moran on some of the earlier tunes, allowing rich hues to seep in, he opens up on "I’ll Play The Blues For You," and the song itself becomes a statement of purpose for the entire project.
Just as the listener expects an entire CD of blues recalling the difficulties and complex emotions of segregated life in the South, Moran surprises again, first by referring to Mal Waldron’s "Fire Waltz," which switches from a fierce three-four push to a swinging four and back again. And then Moran collaborates with Hill on "Aubade," a delicately constructed piece that attains its own creation of finely detailed textures providing a moment of respite within the infectious energy of the blues. Another track of contrast occurs when Moran interprets Sergei Prokofiev’s "Field Of The Dead" with suggestions of unforgettable battlefield drama from innovative film director Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky
once again highlighting nuggets of beauty within film that may have passed by the viewer the first time the movie was seen if it had been viewed at all.
Although Mateen and Waits assume more supportive roles on Same Mother,
rather than leaving the listener astounded at their technical camaraderie of past Moran albums, occasionally their influence on the success of Moran’s trio comes through as a reminder. "G Suit Saltation" succeeds largely because
of the roiling current provided by bass and drums, as Moran and Sewell float above it with glistening ideas, geometrically developed as a single motive expands into several which successively grow their own thematic branches.
With Same Mother
(referring to the common birth of jazz and blues from suffering and a search for freedom), Moran has put aside the daredevilry of some of his earlier albums to record a thematically consistent, historically respectful CD that adds yet another dimension to his apparently unlimited talent that remains fresh as long as there are new sights and sounds at which he can marvel.