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Jason Moran

Ever meet a jazz snob, the fan or musician who maintains the "obvious" superiority of jazz over other genres? Pianist Jason Moran is the polar opposite -- an uncompromising jazz musician unashamed to draw inspiration from areas considered sacrilege by purists. He reimagines works of Afrika Bambaataa, Björk, and classical composer Robert Schumann.

Same Mother -- postulating most American music stems from the same source -- boldly fuses the avant-garde, classical tradition, and Texas Saturday-night party music. "Jump Up" alternates unfettered, powerfully percussive key-cracking with stomping, boogie-woogie piano over a shuffling beat, while Martin Newell's guitar stings like the blues Kings (Albert and Freddie, that is), and atypical tempo changes make you think your drink's been spiked. Perhaps this album's zenith is Moran's take on Serge Prokofiev's "Field of the Dead" (from the Eisenstein film Alexander Nevsky), with its keening, decidedly unbluesy slide guitar and heart-rending dramatic tension. Throughout, Moran displays singular restraint -- all Mother's ten tracks are powerfully concise -- and spectacular technique. Thankfully, the latter serves not ego but the music.

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Mark Keresman

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