Jason Moran - p
Tarus Mateen - el b
Nasheet Waits - d
From time to time, I wonder: is it the Blue Note hype? the hat? the (I must admit, super-cool) way Tarus Mateen slouches in his chair like a lackadaisical B. B. King? I was rapidly reassured that it was the music, creativity and imagination that get to me. And the hat rocked, too.
The brief recorded sound collage that began the concert was expected, but the sudden, prolonged drop into silence wasn't. The maelstrom that followed made for a satisfyingly uncompromising beginning. Even though a few tolling piano chords deftly cued the slight, gospel-tinged groove of "Gangsterism on the Rise," there was never anything merely functional or teleologically climactic about the Bandwagon's free playing: they do it for real (elasticity and unpredictability are maintained), but not forever (it's set within a wider framework), while letting something of the tune lurk in the depths.
Some of the material was taken from Artist In Residence (review). The lovely "Milestone" prompted a bit of self-congratulation: "That shit was inspired" was Moran's assessment. "He Puts On His Coat And Leaves" placed the hypnotic piano surface of the album's solo version on top of the Mateen-Waits bustle and was as close as the Bandwagon got to the likes of E.S.T. I think I heard the slow, thick, tremulous chords of "Lift Ev'ry Voice" at some point. "Artists Ought To Be Writing" and "Breakdown" were logically performed as a medley.
While not really a highlight (without Marvin Sewell, "Breakdown" lacked the snap of the album version), but the AOTBW's voice-as-score approach was interesting to watch live. It put the voice on two levels at once: on top, sonically, as it boomed from the speakers, but also at the bottom, since the whole composition emerged from it. My favourite part of Dave Douglas's Keystone: Live In Sweden (I don't have the studio Keystone album) is part 4 (if I'm not mistaken) of the "Fatty and Mabel Adrift Suite" when Dave interacts with a manipulated sample of Arbuckle's voice. For a brief moment, his lines and the voice come together in a really fascinating way, one unique to that particular instrumentation.
A few other recurring Moran themes were explored: the blues with "Jump Up" and "Let Me Play The Blues For You", a Jaki Byard tune with a de rigueur stride section that thankfully melted into a more personal, less didactic take on the idiom and, as encore, an elastic-tempo swinger that liberally quoted (sampled?) from tunes already played.
The real standout, though, was "Crepuscule With Nellie," totally reconfigured yet totally Monk. For example, thematic material (some belonging to the tune, some written by Moran) was organically looped in the piano introduction in a way that related to Monk's occasional anti-solo solos, the ones that were little more than slightly adjusted restatements of the theme. Moran said that he was currently exploring, among other things, "the sexual aspects" of Monk's music, which explained why they played "Crepuscule With Nellie" as "an r'n'b tune."