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Modernistic (2002)

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Jason Moran

Jason Moran's fourth Blue Note album, a highly idiosyncratic solo piano venture, attempts to reconcile a staggeringly diverse set of influences into a cohesive artistic vision. Beginning with stride master James P. Johnson's "You've Got to Be Modernistic," the omnivorous young pianist then takes that title to heart by personalizing everything from Robert Schumann's "Auf Einer Burg" to Muhal Richard Abrams' "Time Into Space Into Time" to Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock." Among the originals are two more chapters in Moran's ongoing "Gangsterism" series, as well as the closing "Gentle Shifts South," one of his simplest, most affecting melodies. Not unlike Brad Mehldau's Largo, which was released around the same time, Modernistic explodes jazz piano conventions by addressing the issue of sound. The prepared piano loops and backwards effects on "Planet Rock," the disarming mini-piano heard on "Moran Tonk Circa 1935," the old-school hip-hop beat that crops up during "Gangsterism on a Lunchtable" -- in these instances and more, Moran burns the rule book and presents something so thoroughly individual as to be practically without precedent. And still it comes across as a statement of love and respect for the jazz piano tradition. ~ David R. Adler