Artist in Residence

There's no sound too minute or unusual for Jason Moran to transform into music. It could be the squeaking of a door hinge, a kid rolling a toy car across a floor or two people having a casual conversation. The pianist simply improvises around those sounds, and the result is some really extraordinary music. Moran isn't afraid to dabble in other popular musical forms, either, particularly hip hop — on his 2003 album Bandwagon, Moran refashioned the Soul Sonic Force classic "Planet Rock" into a cooking jazz number. Finding beauty in the ordinary, mundane and unexpected is Moran's forte, it seems. Artist in Residence continues the cut-and-splice style he's perfected. He refuses to restrict himself to a comfort zone, but at the same time makes sure that his tunes are thoroughly thought-out and flawlessly executed. "Cradle Song" is a quietly weird ballad, the only accompaniment the sound of someone scribbling on a notepad. Surprisingly, it blends nicely, and only a pianist and arranger as resourceful as Moran could have done something so far-fetched. The ingenuity doesn't stop there — Moran and guitarist Marvin Sewell turn "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" into a frolicking blues ditty, while "Rain" is a showstopper of restraint. Overall, Moran proves that whatever noisemakers are added — from shakers and bells to little toy cars — they can be as central to the music as the traditional instruments. That is, as long as you're an innovator. And Moran certainly is.

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