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My Summer in Italy

Jason Moran Bandwagon

“We want to get you addicted to music you can’t predict,” pianist Jason Moran told the audience at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club. Brave words for most performers, but Moran, bassist Taurus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, collectively known as the Bandwagon, dealt out a sample that evening that could get anybody hooked.

The trio is touring in support of its new, eponymous album for Blue Note, which was recorded live (with terrible sound) at the Village Vanguard, and their Kennedy Center performance emphasized material from that disc and from Moran’s last solo outing, Modernistic. But many of Wednesday’s performances took more risks than those on the albums, with musical styles swerving even more sharply and with hotter-boiling climaxes. Moran’s interpretation of Johannes Brahms’ Intermezzo, Op. 118 No. 2, for example, took the central groove Moran finds in that work farther afield, with an eloquent solo from Mateen over Moran’s repeated eight-note motive; after this, the players abruptly shifted to an Ellington romp. Similarly, “Ringing My Phone,” a treat from the trio album on which the players musically shadow a recording of a woman speaking Turkish into a cell phone, began with Moran plunking out the melody of her voice as on the album; however, this evening Moran seized on one interesting fragment along the way, and the trio became positively frenzied at the discovery, abandoning the Turkish speech entirely.

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