Moran’s breaking away from Blue Note and forming Yes Records with his wife, the opera singer Alicia Hall Moran, wasn’t a matter of creative restraint. Indeed, the hallmark of his nine Blue Note albums (1999-2014) was that they never repeated themselves. Nobody came away from 2010’s Ten thinking that a hip-hop-and-electronica-laced tribute to Fats Waller (2014’s All Rise) was the inevitable next step. The issue, then, was of ownership—and, if you like, whim. Yes allows him to put out whatever he wants, whenever he wants, without executive approval. It may run counter to the best practices of the (not-so-healthy) record industry, but if anything it reflects a writ-large lesson Moran learned from the late Blue Note head Bruce Lundvall: Trust your instincts.
If the product Yes has released thus far is any indication, the rest of us should trust Moran’s instincts too. The Armory Concert, Moran’s 2016 debut on his label, comprises a surpassingly gorgeous solo concert the pianist put on in March of that year. It’s a program of entirely new music, by turns sensitive (“Veterans”), percussive (“Reanimation”), abstractly manic (“All Hammers and Chains”) and, in a paean to his wife, “Alicia,” oddly inquisitive. It’s Moran’s second solo release, though one might hesitate to categorize it alongside 2002’s Modernistic. That album found the pianist contextualizing his influences. The man who made The Armory Concert has digested those influences thoroughly and is now wholly himself.