Artist in Residence

“Heady stuff.” If only by dropping references to painters Basquiat and Rauschenberg into his work, Houston-born jazz pianist JASON MORAN undoubtedly hears that a lot. His latest, ARTIST IN RESIDENCE (Blue Note), based on his compositions for three commissions in the past year—for Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center and New York’s Dia Art Foundation and Jazz at Lincoln Center—does little to dispel the notion. Snippets of artist Adrian Piper intoning her peers to “break down the barriers” between the art world and its audience form a hip-hop-like backbeat; elsewhere a lovely soprano voice is juxtaposed with his trio, while found objects rattle, feet shuffle, or pencils scribble as Moran comps away. If all this sounds like an academic bore, remember that Moran is the same musician who playfully inverted Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” and threw the Albert King chestnut “I’ll Play the Blues for You” into the deep end. With a creative talent unrivaled in modern jazz, Moran makes the music soar with ebullience and ingenuity. He might aim at his listeners’ heads, but he also knows to never shoot over them.

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