[Dixielandjazz] JAZZ & BLUES

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Jan 28 06:29:46 PST 2005

Perhaps not OKOM, but then some interesting comments on Blues & Jazz and how
one band leader tackles the challenge of creativity.

Steve Barbone

January 28, 2005 - NY TIMES

Tangling Up the Blues in Long Tendrils of Jazz

In five years as a bandleader, the jazz pianist Jason Moran has developed
such an aptitude for the curious juxtaposition of idioms - jostling jazz
against opera, stride piano, film music, pop, the music of human speech
patterns - that he was starting to need a challenge.

He chose a good one: blues. Jazz and blues are so obviously related in black
American culture, musically and socially, that it might require a different
mindset to thoughtfully combine them. Perhaps a mindset that's less restless
and arch, more ready to buckle down and deal with the genealogy of jazz as
it has been most reliably laid out. If that's what you're thinking, Mr.
Moran has made an end-run around you.

Many jazz musicians regard blues as a harmonic structure in which to fit
swing rhythm and jazz-group interaction - as, for example, John Coltrane did
on one of his best records, "Coltrane Plays the Blues." But when Mr. Moran
thought blues, he also thought of shuffle beats and Texas guitar players;
blues-as-blues style, not jazz-as-blues or merely blues form. To that end he
hired the guitarist Marvin Sewell as a fourth member of his band, Bandwagon.

That's the premise, anyway, but Mr. Moran doesn't let premises dictate very
much. "Same Mother" (Blue Note), Mr. Moran's blues record, is not as much
about the blues as it is about his memory and imagination and, inevitably,
his compositional style, equally full of tumultuous group interaction and
serious, gentle Ellington-ballad harmonies. A bit like Cassandra Wilson's
"Belly of the Sun," it's a generalized and creative evocation of the sound
and feel of Southern blues and manners.

The album reaches the stores next week, but Mr. Sewell has been playing live
with the trio (Mr. Moran, the bassist Tarus Mateen and the drummer Nasheet
Waits) for long enough that he has absorbed its springiness, its raw, abrupt
shifts in tempo and mood and volume.

Playing amped-up slide-guitar lines on electric guitar, and unusual
harmonies on acoustic with a special tuning, he is a necessary part of the
band's new music. Aside from plenty of blues scales, blue notes and shuffle
rhythms, the set at the Jazz Standard on Wednesday night included an actual
piece of blues-guitar repertory: "I'll Play the Blues for You," recorded in
1972 by Albert King.

Yet at the same time the quartet did what the best jazz groups do: render
material neutral, if not irrelevant. The set also included a version of
"Joga," which Mr. Moran identified as having been written by "the blues
artist Bjork," and a tape of a complex African drum chant over which Mr.
Moran fitted a version of the jazz war horse "Lover." It didn't quite
caramelize, but it was done with great confidence.

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list