Jason Moran

Jason Moran is one of the most inventive jazz pianists currently working. He’s a spiritual descendant of Thelonious Monk, and he pays homage to his pianistic predecessor directly on “Crepuscule With Nellie,” the third track on this album celebrating the 10th year Moran has played with Bandwagon, the trio he leads. But Monk is all over Moran, and vice versa. No one who is familiar with both would suggest, however, that Moran is merely a slavish imitator. He takes up where Monk left off, pushing the edges set by that fiercely idiosyncratic improviser. Moran has built a substantial discography for such a young player, but that’s the least of his accomplishments. He was recently awarded one of those MacArthur Fellowship “genius” awards, the kind of recognition seldom garnered by that dwindling number of jazz musicians who remain steadfast in their allegiances to a genre that no longer maintains the über-hip status it did back in Monk’s day. There’s lots of contemplative stuff on this album, music that evokes cityscapes and wet pavement, but there are also tracks that swing in the best jazz tradition—and there’s also a rich interplay of African-American and Western classical forms. If you’re curious about what it takes to be deemed a “genius,” you can hear some of the answer on this album.