Jason Moran, Modernistic

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 05.18.11 in Reviews


Jason Moran
Ranging from Schumann to Afrika Bambaataa

On this 2002 solo recital, the great younger pianist shows off his range, taking in "Body and Soul," Euro-romantic Robert Schumann's "Ruf einer burg" and a South Bronx classic, Afrika Bambaataa's early rap hit "Planet Rock." Moran faithfully recreates the last, mostly on prepared piano, with objects affixed to or wedged between strings. He catches it all: the percussive snap, the slippery spoken-word rhythms, even the Kraftwerk sample; Moran loves drawing inspiration from the cadences of speech. (It's one sure way not to sound like every other pianist.) Then he spins an independent composition off that arrangement, "Planet Rock Revisited." The album title derives from stride pianist James P. Johnson's 1929 "You've Got to Be Modernistic," a highlight, where Johnson/Moran mixes ragtimey rhythms with modern harmonies, respecting and kidding the music they built on. Moran's own pieces show where all that listening and study got him: to his own piano sound.