The Until I Get Married Guide To Jazz Featuring Jason Moran
A few weeks back, I wrote a post about the five best hip-hop albums to throw on for a good ol’ fashion make-out session. In that post, I casually mentioned a love for jazz. Almost immediately people in the comments and friends I talk to offline said I should do a similar guide with jazz albums, but I was hesitant.
So instead of playing the role of jazz tourist, I reached out to someone who knows the music both as a fan and a player. Jason Moran (pictured below) is one of the most renowned jazz pianist playing today. His latest album Ten, was hailed by many critics and fans as the best jazz album to come out in 2010 (I’d have to agree), and his contributions to jazz were recognized with a MacArthur Genius grant last year as well.
When Jason and I talked, it was not only about jazz music, but the way it functions in our day to day life. A lot of people like the idea of jazz more than the music itself, and therefore only use it when they want to get romantic or soften the mood. As I told Jason, people take to jazz like wine, where the theater of it is more important than the actual substance. But what to make of the guy who wants to mix things up every now and then? Instead of throwing on some R&B or dorm-room rock, put on a jazz record or go see a jazz show instead of a Maxwell concert (although, that’s not bad).
Today’s post is for that person, the one who is curious about jazz but only has a copy of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue in their album collection.
Jason took the time to list five essential albums a man should own. The twist? Every one of the artists listed is alive, so not only can their albums be bought, but for those looking to check out some good jazz on date night, a man can buy tickets to see them.
“The way I chose, I thought these albums would represent a good record collection,” said Jason. “If you had these five things in it, you would look kind of thorough and, all these people are visually captivating. I could watch them without even hearing them.”
Just one more thing before we get into Jason’s list. The man was modest enough to not put down his own album, but honestly people, if you don’t own a copy of Ten your record collection is missing something special. Click here to listen to some of it, and click here to buy all of it.
Now, onto the Until I Get Married Guide to Jazz as selected by Jason Moran.
Album: Speak No Evil
Artist: Wayne Shorter
Jason: This is a classic 1960’s jazz record. He’s one of the few musicians still around, and this record captures a real time period of jazz, right on its cusp, after leaving cool and becoming more and more complex. It’s great, unbelievable, and every musician on it is kind of a giant. Wayne Shorter is still performing today with his quartet that he’s had for maybe seven or eight years now, and each night what is wonderful about him is it’s really abstract. He’s definitely not talking in between songs, but what you get is this kind of exploration. Like, a good date might be, go to the Space Museum and look at stars and moons and planets and then, go see Wayne. He’s really dealing with music as this kind of galaxy, not something grounded in gravity. That real openness.
Listen to the title track from Shorter’s Speak No Evil
Album: Double Booked
Artist: Robert Glasper
Jason: This is kind of genre defining right now. What he has on here is two ideas of his split personality, being a jazz piano trio leader and also his more electric slide, which is kind of more 70’s inflected Herbie Hancock sound. But he’s mixing all of his other elements in it, and also he’s kind of the person who has blended hip-hop and jazz the best. It’s kind of the first time it’s really been captured, with no MC on it. He knows the music and he’s playing with the best practitioners, from The Roots to Mos Def, he’s kind of in that mix and he’s always performing too, doing many different things.
Listen to “Downtime” from Glasper’s Double Booked
Album: Free Jazz
Artist: Ornette Coleman
Jason: See, now I’m thinking about the women I like, and the women that I’ve liked aren’t into that obvious sh*t. Ornette Coleman has taken roads and paths to take jazz to a different space and this record is I think his defining record — it’s two bands playing at once, it’s really kind of ridiculous. If you go on a date to see him, I think what Ornette offers is a new perspective. Also, he’s gonna be fun to look at, at the end of it, you or your date might be like, “Oh, that old motherf*cker is crazy but he’s a genius!” [laughs]. I think everyone needs to be in the presence of something like that. I saw him last summer in Holland and he was testing me, I thought I understood music and Ornette is still out here testing the limits to music. He’s an icon.
Listen to “Free Jazz Pt. 1” from Coleman’s Free Jazz
Album: Royal Toast
Artist: The Claudia Quintet
Jason:This is real contemporary jazz right here. This is taking the soul aesthetic and then running it through a conservatory and then running it through a PhD, but it’s still soulful too, kind of like these chefs who strain their sauces two or three times. You get this really compacted music. The funny thing about this being a “date” group, I enjoy them as a musician and as an audience member because [the bandleader] John Hollenbeck, he’s also a very funny dude who feels very comfortable talking to his audience. He was telling me this story: After one of these gigs, a woman came up to him, gave him a note, and walked away. He thought, “Oh wow.” And he looked at the note and the note said, “Your band is the reason I don’t date white guys.” [laughs]. So I thought that was hilarious, but that’s one woman, so maybe there’s another woman that it would totally be the reason. But they’re a brilliant, brilliant working band; they’re a real unit. The great thing about each of these groups is they have a working ensemble and so the relationship with their band members is really close.
Listen to the title track from The Claudia Quintet’s album Royal Toast
Artist: Cassandra Wilson
Jason: She has many great records, but I think the way she approached Miles Davis’ music…this shows you’re listening to someone contemporary who’s also checking out somebody old, Miles Davis. It kind of reaches back in a way that shows the person has values if they have this record in their collection. That kind of thing kills two birds with one stone, it gets you associated with Miles Davis if it’s not already in your collection and also the great artistry of Cassandra Wilson. It’s great to see a woman command a stage, and she’s in tune with her audience. She really sings out into her audience. It’s very mellow, it’s very moody music. Of anything that I’ve listed, she might be the moodiest in a jazz way, but also in kind of a grooving and soulful way too. You also never know who’s going to show up. I’ve played with her and Prince showed up. So even if the person is into the star gazing, there might be a celebrity in the crowd [laughs]. She’s also really in tune to the music, so it’s really kind of a thrill to watch her move around the stage and kind of be thrilled by the music coming from the band. It’s visually captivating.
Listen to “When The Sun Goes Down” from Wilson’s album Traveling Miles