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Sam Rivers

This is pianist Jason Moran's third recording as a leader for Blue Note, and it is arguably his best. Only 26 when he recorded it, the pianist had the maturity to invite saxophone giant Sam Rivers (77 years old at the time!) to join Moran's trio, and it is a testimony to Moran's abilities that Rivers accepted. Moran has acknowledged his debt to jazz greats Andrew Hill and Herbie Nichols, two towering yet underrated giants of jazz piano and composition, and their influences show. Moran evidences an affinity for complicated snakelike post-bop lines and solo improvisations that get to the heart of a melody. His style is never showy; he embraces simple, emotional statements sophisticated in their mystery. Rivers' presence is a clear asset, and threatens to overwhelm the pianist at times. In fact, on some of the pieces it might appear that Rivers is the leader and Moran an excellent accompanist, a not unenviable position in itself. But Moran holds his own, evidencing a deep understanding of the jazz tradition that belies his youth. Moran keeps one eye on his influences and another to the future, something that Rivers has always done so well. By including a deft mixture of tunes written by Rivers and originals by Moran, and throwing in a bold trio version of Ellington's "Kinda Dukish," Moran offers a program that is both accessible and challenging. ~ Steven Loewy