Jason Moran Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jason Moran Trio 

On last year's superb Facing Left, pianist Jason Moran, bassist Tarus Mateen, and drummer Nasheet Waits acted as three but moved as one. Whether stretching tunes like taffy with accelerations and decelerations that turned on a dime or dissolving the line between foreground and background with their hyperactive interplay, they achieved an elusive degree of empathy while consistently spiking the music with surprises. On the trio's new Black Stars (Blue Note) they're joined by the great reedist Sam Rivers--a onetime collaborator of Moran's primary mentor, Jaki Byard--and he fits in well. More than half a century separates Moran, 26, and Rivers, 78, but neither party defers to the gap--Moran doesn't handle his elder with kid gloves, and the vet attacks the young gun's fiercely rhythmic compositions with pistols blazing. From his fiery tenor playing on the rising-and-falling "Foot Under Foot" to the way he joins the collective downhill tumble of "Skitter In," Rivers has lost none of his spunk or rough edge. And when he switches to flute on "Summit" he infuses the ballad with a delicate Asian flavor and gives it the sort of melodic precision that Moran tends to sacrifice for rhythmic thrills. Rivers sits out on "Kinda Dukish," Moran's latest investigation of one of Duke Ellington's lesser-known trio pieces, all chunky riffs and imperturbable groove; Moran even puckishly grafts on a funereal section of Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy." He also delivers a knockout, stride-flavored solo reading of Byard's "Out Front." On record the music seethes with excitement, and Moran's sense of discovery is even more palpable when he plays live. Friday, December 14, 9 PM, and Saturday, December 15, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552.

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