Music

Jason Moran: Same Mother

Dan Nishimoto

On his sixth album, Jason Moran continues to explore the roots and influences of the jazz idiom, while simultaneously demonstrating how its innovations can be applied to any number of mediums.


Jason Moran

Same Mother

Label: Blue Note
US Release Date: 2005-02-01
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

On his sixth album, Same Mother, Jason Moran continues to explore the roots and influences of the jazz idiom, while simultaneously demonstrating how its innovations can be applied to any number of mediums. The central theme of this album is the blues, the title being in reference to the idea that both jazz and the blues have a comparable expressive quality and aesthetic, stemming from the "same mother." However, as is typical with the progressive and modernistic (in every sense of the word) Moran, he uses the blues as a structural and thematic springboard to write and reinterpret. The album balances beauty with pain, much like its subject, yet in a stylistically inventive and unfamiliar manner, the results being overwhelmingly stimulating and evocative.

Opening with "Gangsterism on the Rise", the latest composition from his now standard "Gangsterism" series, Moran rumbles into the album with his now standard backing group (often called the Bandwagon) of bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits (latest addition guitarist Marvin Sewell joins them on select tracks). The dramatically rolling song conjures riffs and ideas from Monk to Duke, barrelhouse juke joints from Texas to Louisiana, unfurled in a wash of inverted phrases. The cut is both a transition point from one Moran album to the next, in addition to being an introduction of the distinct form of mash-up to be heard here. "Jump Up", a heavy rhythm and blues vamp, establishes the theme in a direct and declaratory manner by using an up-tempo blues pattern to launch bold solos from Sewell and Moran. While the invocation of past blues masters for modern retellings is hardly new -- the skronk of Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band come to mind during this song's extremes -- however, Moran and his group use a pure filter that leaves the spirit of the music intact; the performance therefore touches the spirit in a familiar sense, yet uses an updated lexicon. The less exploratory but no less revelatory reading of the Albert King standard "I'll Play the Blues For You" perfectly captures this process in action. Moran and co. veer out on occasion from the simple verses and bridges, but with an extreme respect for the blues-smith's signature foot-dragging, slow-roasted funk groove and beat, so excellently exhumed from King's corpse and transplanted by Mateen and Waits. This spiritual pulse resonates throughout Same Mother, even giving straight compositions like the lullaby-like "Aubade" and the meditative "G Suit Salutation" an affecting quality.

The album truly takes off at the midway point, beginning with a reading of Mal Waldron's "Fire Waltz". Using the bridge as a straight-fours release point from the verse's tense three-rhythm, Moran and his men build and break tension with ease, creating a balanced aural portrait of beauty and struggle. The group segues from this modern waltz to the melodramatic "Field of Dead", a piece inspired by the closing scene from pioneer filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's period epic "Aleksandr Nevsky. In film, the scene depicts a woman searching for her fiancé amidst a glacier of broken ice and fallen soldiers. In Moran's composition, a slide guitar floats much like the woman over a mess of cymbal washes, bass hits, and piano rolls. Stylistically, the piece is a fusion of delta blues instrumentation with modern orchestral composition. Combined with a controlled performance, the track builds with perfectly paced drama. The aptly titled "Restin'" therefore provides a much-needed, quiet resolution, and the following "The Field" re-opens the group's canvas with a rich and melancholy melody, reminiscent of Radiohead. In tandem, these last two pieces provide the listener with space and room to breathe, an opportune moment after the tumble of emotions and ideas.

Same Mother closes with another Gangsterism title, "Gangsterism On the Set", a slow jolt that reestablishes the rhythmic pulse so prevalent in the first half of the album. The effect is partially to book-end the record, but also to bridge the listener's attention back to the ideas of Moran; it is a reminder that this has been another Jason Moran message, and there's still more to come. Although hardly extraordinary amongst his recorded output thus far, Same Mother is still another building block in Moran's continued exploration of music.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.