Alive and Kicking

Piano Man Jason Moran Breathes Soul Into Jazz

Rumor has it that jazz is dead except as purveyed by beautiful young women with smoldering eyes and/or big hair, and sometimes it seems that way. But when you encounter a musician like 27-year-old Jason Moran, whose latest CD Modernistic (Blue Note) is an unalloyed delight, you realize anew that the obits, which have been cropping up since the early 1930s, ignore the sharklike instinct that keeps jazz gliding forward. Moran was born in Texas and switched from classical to jazz studies at 13, after hearing Monk. His instinct for a percussive attack was underscored in New York, where he graduated from the Manhattan School of Music and studied with Muhal Richard Abrams, Andrew Hill, and Jaki Byard, whose wit and flamboyance shine through the new CD's "Moran Tonk Circa 1935." Moran's improvisations are vital, abrupt, eruptive, keyed to the composition at hand, and, even when hewing to the changes, equally drumlike and melodic. He combines ostinato figures, varying tempi and meters, crisp rhythmic closed chords, and dance beats that range from stride to hip-hop with a here's-mud-in-your-eye confidence. His slow-motion ballads are measured and shrewd. The new CD is a solo tour de force, and that's how he appears on September 21 at Jazz Standard (116 East 27th Street, 576-2232), closing out a week of superb pianists: Ethan Iverson, Fred Hersch, Vijay Iyer, and Matthew Shipp. He leads his hot-blooded trio with Tarus Mateen and Nasheet Waits at the Village Vanguard (178 Seventh Avenue South, 255-4037), November 26-December 1.


BILL CHARLAP
September 10-15
Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, 255-4037
The pianist has found an ideal definition for his music in a trio with bassist Peter Washington, whose dark tones anchor the beat, and drummer Kenny Washington, whose brushes make it crackle. Playing with rare lyricism and a disarmingly spare attack that disguises his formidable technique, Charlap brings a new blush to old songs.

RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA
October 4
Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson Street, 242-1063
The imposing altoist, whose work with pianist Vijay Iyer has produced some of the most distinctive sounds heard in jazz during the past few years, leads a quartet in celebration of his CD Black Water. The music is bright and handsomely voiced; the ensemble, which inclines toward surprising unison alto-piano voicings, a model of interactive unity.

Key player: Moran fires up the season.
photo: Robert Hale
Key player: Moran fires up the season.

SAM RIVERS
October 8-13
Iridium, 1650 Broadway, 582-2121
Ever since he began bringing his new trio here a few years ago, Rivers has been on a tear, effortlessly winning over audiences that don't seem to notice how difficult his music is supposed to be. Ebullient, generous, and mightily inventive, he offers a circus of surprise events, revealing different styles on tenor, flute, soprano, and piano.

ROY HAYNES
October 16-17
Alice Tully Hall, Broadway and 65th Street, 721-6500
He is one of the few surviving bop masters, and he's still playing at the top of his game. His recent bands have found him spurring sidemen with the same energy and invention that made his name when he backed Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, John Coltrane, and Stan Getz, among countless others. On the second night, Chick Corea will appear. Haynes'll put on a good show with or without.

DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER
October 22-27
Iridium, 1650 Broadway, 582-2121
The finest jazz singer of her generation is also the most entertaining, with her megawatt smile, theatrical flair, and improvisational brio, which extends to comedic raps as well as to lightning romps—backed by her virtuoso tuning fork of a trio. This week she'll sing Kurt Weill, the subject of her new CD; these evocative, moody, often overlooked songs have never sounded brighter.

THE DIZZY GILLESPIE ALUMNI ALL-STARS
October 22-27
Blue Note, 131 West 3rd Street, 475-8592
This annual get-together, administered by Jon Faddis, who embodies more of Dizzy's style than anyone, is truly all-star and great fun, including James Moody, Slide Hampton, Randy Brecker, Benny Green, plus Paquito D'Rivera during the week and Jackie McLean on the weekend.

REGINA CARTER
October 29-November 3
Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, 255-4037
For several years, the question was: Which Regina Carter—jazz swinger or fusioneer? That issue has been settled in recent appearances with Kenny Barron (including the excellent CD Motor City Moments), Randy Weston, James Carter, and her own groups. She's the hottest violinist in jazz today, a compelling player, leading a quintet.

GARY BARTZ
November 5-10
Jazz Standard, 116 East 27th Street, 576-2232
His marvelous high-energy alto sax is a beacon of unreconstructed, all-out virtuoso fervor, sustaining the rigors of Coltrane and Adderley with a serrated edge all his own. When he isn't chewing through changes, he illuminates ballads with glowing audacity. He reunites with Kenny Barron in the Monk-inspired Sphere at the Iridium, through September 8, and explores the music of John Coltrane, as on his new CD.

ABBEY LINCOLN
November 12-17
Blue Note, 131 West 3rd Street, 475-8592
Her remarkable triptych of concerts last season underscored her skills as a songwriter, but she is just as powerful an interpreter of choice standards. Lincoln is now the reigning diva of jazz singers, a position she holds by dint of an uncompromising individuality that has sustained her through an up and down career of five decades.

'THIRD ANNUAL DJANGO REINHARDT FESTIVAL'
November 19-24
Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, 581-3080
The exhilaration and finesse that marked the 2000 inaugural of this string-lovers banquet is documented on Live at Birdland (Atlantic), and the four evenings that constitute part trois are sure to measure up, bringing together guitarists, violinists, and bassists from here and abroad.

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