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August 19 2014

Ain’t Misbehavin’” – the first single from Jason Moran‘s new album All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller, a collaboration with the vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello that recasts the music of the legendary jazz entertainer Fats Waller as a modern dance party – has premiered today on Okayplayer and Revive Music. The single is available now through all digital retailers and streaming services. The album – which was produced by Ndegeocello and Blue Note Records president Don Was – will be released September 16 and is available for pre-order on iTunes and Amazon.

“Jason Moran is expanding what it means to experience music,” wrote Fast Company recently in naming Moran one of their Innovation Agents, which they describe as “the personalities driving the world’s most radical, disruptive, and creative companies.”

All Rise is the studio culmination of a project that was born onstage in Harlem as the Fats Waller Dance Party. In 2011—nearly a year after Moran had been named a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “genius” fellow and around the time he was named Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC—the NYC performing arts venue Harlem Stage Gatehouse commissioned Moran, a longtime resident of Upper Manhattan, to create a tribute to the Harlem stride master as part of its “Harlem Jazz Shrines” series.

“Fats Waller is a special kind of provocateur,” says Moran. “It stems mainly from the fact that he was a singer as well as a pianist. Sometimes he was like an MC.  It has always amazed me that a pianist whose playing was so deep could sing and keep a running commentary of what was going on around him all at the same time.”

“The objective was to construct an evening-length performance in a space that lent itself to dancing,” explains Moran. “I asked myself what could be the extra layer, or the extra couple of layers, we might add to Fats' music to provide a number of different ways for audiences to enjoy it? That's when I reached out to Meshell. I wanted someone who could not only sing Fats' lyrics, but be free with them, and also a musician more accustomed than I am to dealing with a crowd that's on its feet. She was my only choice.”

The same spirit of radical reinvention can be found on Ndegeocello’s 2012 dedication to Nina Simone, Pour une âme souveraine, and her presence on All Rise guaranteed that the album would be infused with the contemporary kineticism of R&B and hip-hop. “I suggested the drummer, Charles Haynes,” Ndegeocello remembers, “because he has facility and his pocket is one you cannot hear and stand still. The dance aspect of what Jason proposed really excited me.”

All Rise features Moran hosting a changeable cast of musicians that includes vocalists Ndegeocello and Lisa E. Harris, his longtime trio The Bandwagon featuring bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, and a funky horn-inflected ensemble anchored by drummer Charles Haynes that features trumpeter Leron Thomas and trombonist Josh Roseman, as well as guest saxophonist Steve Lehman. The album was recorded and mixed by Bob Power, known for honing the sound on classic hip hop records by A Tribe Called Quest, Common and The Roots.