Jason Moran, my favorite jazz musician working today, has been awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genuis Award. His Modernistic (2002) is a brilliant study of early twentieth-century jazz piano styles, while Same Mother (2005) does the same for the blues tradition. For a sample of how Moran invests these traditional forms of music with contemporary verve, see the video of “You’ve Got to Be Modernistic,” performed with his ensemble The Bandwagon, perhaps the most important piano trio of the past decade. His latest album, Ten, marks the ensemble’s tenth anniversary, summarizes Moran’s work since Artist in Residence (2006), a period in which Moran dove into Thelonious Monk’s body of work.
If your idea of a piano trio is somnolent background music to martini sipping, a live performance of the Bandwagon will quickly set you straight. The ensemble has the energy of a rock band; Tarus Mateen even plays electric bass–sitting down, oddly enough. Their performances are not to be missed.