The Bandwagon

Being labeled a pioneer in modern jazz is the musical equivalent of making the cover of Sports Illustrated ; you almost never live up to anyone's expectations. Yet after his third stunning album in a row (and fifth overall), Jason Moran is looking more and more like he's beaten the curse. On The Bandwagon (Blue Note), the young Houston-born pianist finds a center to his playing and composing that's off the main axis; he draws from pop culture as much as jazz tradition. Although his improvisations are not tied down to scales or modes, his wild energy never obliterates his melodic sense. Hip in the best sense, Moran's trio tackles this live Village Vanguard set with electricity and wit.

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