Thursday, July 12, 2007

JaMo & Bandwagon: In the Standard, but Not Standard Fare

Jason Moran with the Bandwagon (Nasheet Waits on drums and Taurus Mateen on bass) are one of the few groups I have actually dragged reluctant people out to hear. They have a rare ability to project a “we’re cooler than you” attitude, while remaining likeable on the bandstand. Having heard them live on many occasions, one comes to expect something new each time, whether it is the challenging material recorded live at the Vanguard, featuring music improvised to a Turkish telephone conversation and a Chinese stock market report, or the blues drenched material of Same Mother.

Last night at the Jazz Standard, JaMo was in a Monkish mood, having spent serious time with Monk’s 1959 Town Hall concert. Bandwagon nicely interpreted “Crepuscule with Nellie” and “Thelonious,” wholeheartedly enjoying Monk’s odd charm, while retaining the lyric beauty of the former love song dedicated to Monk’s wife.

Moran also read the NY Times pan of the Town Hall concert over Monk’s the original concert recordings of both tunes combined into one track. The overdubbed Monk was actually an intriguing effect, but the review, calling the concert “work-a-day” “pipe and slippers” music does not hold up well under any circumstances.

The highlights of the set were tributes to Moran’s mentors. He acknowledged his teacher Jaki Byard with “To Bob Vatel of Paris.” The late Andrew Hill’s presence was also felt in a medley of his original “Tough Love” flowing into a beautiful untitled composition Hill and Moran worked out, for which Moran says he is awaiting a sign from the master to name.

The over-riding vibe last night was a good groove from a group that has played together since 2000. They are fascinating to listen to, as each tune goes through an evolution, rising and falling in intensity, covering a wide emotional spectrum, but never straying far from their sense of humor. They play at the Standard through Sunday.