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Our critics' picks in new releases


This album by jazz pianist Jason Moran buzzes like a bee. Moran is a young up-and-comer on the jazz scene but also a heavyweight intellectual whose improvisations are crystalline treatises, honeycomb labyrinths that not only explore jazz itself, but the music's connections to other arts, and to everyday life. Recorded live in the hallowed basement jazz shrine the Village Vanguard, where appearances tend to signify the full arrival of a new jazz master on the scene, Bandwagon features Moran, acoustic-electric bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits twisting and turning around their tunes at breakneck speed. Of special interest is their interpretation of Afrika Bambaataa's hip-hop classic "Planet Rock," which they manage to make both insanely grooving and deconstructively analytic. Overall, they flitter and fly, pausing to pollinate the flowers here; diving, darting, and stinging there. On the most daring song, "Ringing My Phone," Moran plays along on piano with the patter of a recorded Turkish voice. At first, the voice leads the way, capturing the listener's attention even if most of us cannot understand the words. But as Moran races along, catching the voice's sudden pitch modulations, jaunty rhythms, and uneven cadences, his piano gradually seizes center stage, until the music starts to go places language only dreams of.

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