Archive for the ‘Jason Moran’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LAWRENCE BROWNLEE AND JASON MORAN-“There’s A Man Going ‘Round Taking Names” (Field Recordings, February 17, 2016). 

I know of Brownlee from a Tiny Desk Concert.  But this is a whole other order of magnitude.  He and pianist Jason Moran are playing a spiritual about death in an active crypt.

Brownlee’s voice is powerful and soaring, but full of anguish.  And Moran’s piano is so intense, especially at the end.  He plays the melody but he allows for a lot of overtones and echo to nearly overpower the music.

At the very end, he plays some high notes by literally chopping at the keys like a karate chop–powerful, sharp and dissonant.

Here’s the blurb for more context:

Opera singer Lawrence Brownlee is known for portraying kings and princes. But lately he’s been thinking about real people: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, to name a few.

He’s been thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and an old spiritual called “There’s a Man Going ‘Round Taking Names.” Decades ago, singers like Paul Robeson and Lead Belly recorded it. Brownlee, with jazz pianist Jason Moran, revives the old song to tell a new story for the 21st century.

“Jason and I chose this song because we felt it accurately captures a growing sentiment that’s in society today,” Brownlee says. “So many senseless deaths of young African-American men.”

A crypt, they thought, would be an appropriate setting to perform their version of the song. So we took our cameras and microphones — and a lovely piano — deep into the active crypt below the historic Church of the Intercession in Harlem. The 1915 structure at 155th Street and Broadway is a New York City landmark and a dramatic setting for occasional concerts, including a December 2015 recital by Brownlee.

“I know that the ashes of the parishioners of this church are here in this crypt,” Brownlee explains. “You can feel the weight of death, you can feel the sting. It adequately captures the atmosphere, the somber mood that we are trying to capture with this song.”

In this arrangement, an already solemn song becomes even more dark and agitated.

“What [Jason] has done with the piano part has made it build, and you feel the unrest, the turmoil, the tension that is underneath,” Brownlee says. “This is something that is painful and difficult to deal with.”


[READ: January 31, 2018] “Self-Portrait with Beach”

This is the story of an older couple who have been together for a while.

They go to the beach, she removes her top and asks “Is the body the house for the soul or are body and soul and one and inseparable.?”  He looks at her and says, “Your body is my soul.”

She laughs that his soul is bound for decay but he continues, ‘Nothing of you will decay as long as I am alive.”

Out of nowhere a man in white comes and offers his homemade beverages.  He says they have unique powers. (more…)

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kaput SOUNDTRACK: CHARLES LLOYD & JASON MORAN-Tiny Desk Concert #544 (June 28, 2016).

lloydCharles Lloyd is a saxophonist and Jason Moran is a pianist and that’s pretty much all I know about them.

Lloyd has been playing since the 1960s.  I have no idea what he used to play like, but in this Tiny Desk, he couldn’t possibly look more like an “old man.”  In what is one of the more disconcerting Tiny Desks I’ve watched, Lloyd sits in a chair and doesn’t take off his big puffy coat or his toque for the whole performance [I don’t know when this was filmed, so maybe it was cold that day, but come on].  Nor does he move, wave, acknowledge anyone or even smile (except once at the end).  Since he never takes his sunglasses off, he could be asleep (except that he really wails on the horn).

Moran is the youthful member of the duo and his piano playing is a lot of fun to watch.  In addition to playing some very lovely sections, he also plays some intensely dissonant parts as well.  This is free jazz in all its glory

“Hagar’s Lullaby” (by Charles Lloyd) has a pretty (but not lullabyish) melody on sax—a simple 8 note melody which is constantly in danger of being overtaken by some wild riffing.  About 4 minutes in Moran plays super fast and loud–almost a drone for a minute or so.

“Prayer” (by Charles Lloyd) opens as a more mellow piece with occasional moments of Moran’s louder piano. After about three minutes in, it turns into utter chaos as Moran is all over the piano with rumbles of dissonance–it’s really noisy (and cool) before returning to the main melody.  Since I don’t know anything about these songs, I don’t know how much is improvised.  I have to assume a lot, but I don’t really know.

Lloyd’s only reaction comes when Moran starts playing the loud, fast intro notes of the final song, “Sand Rhythm” (by Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran).  He smiles at Moran.  The song is pretty dark and intense with some wild riffing on the piano.  About 2 minutes from the end, Moran does something to the piano to really impact the overall sound—it sounds more than deadened, but it really give anew tone underneath Lloyd’s skronking.

While I’m sure that Lloyd is the main draw in this duo, I was far more interested in Moran’s playing.  There’s was nothing wrong with Lloyd’s work at all, but the presentation was so flat that I had to keep looking elsewhere.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Kaput & Zösky

Lewis Trondheim is a prolific cartoonist.  I had only seen his book A.L.I.E.E.E.N before so I didn’t know what to expect from a book with real words.  I certainly didn’t expect this collection to be filled with short “skits” and one page interstitial (translated by Edward Gauvin).  Eric Cartier is also credited in the book, although I don’t know what for.

Kaput and Zösky are alien creatures bent on destroying everything and ruling the world.   Pretty much each strip has them landing on a new planet with the intent of destroying it. Typically the short, rounder one, Kaput is ready simply to destroy everyone while the taller one with yellow ears, Zösky, seems to wan to take a more reasonable approach.

In the first one (only one page) they land on earth and are intimidated by a spider.  The second one involves a bureaucratic nightmare which is quite funny.  The third one is very funny as the creatures on the planet literally do everything K&Z say (that must have been hard to translate). (more…)

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