All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller (Blue Note)
Released September 16, 2014
Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Album 2015
Allmusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2014
All Rise—Jason Moran’s nod to Fats Waller (1904-1943)—opens with “Put Your Hands on It,” a brief intro that evokes the Houston hip-hop subgenre chopped and screwed. The snippet quickly lets you know that All Rise is a contemporary and personal take on the Harlem Stride master’s oeuvre. (Moran is from Houston.) “Ain’t Misbehavin’” gets a jazzy R&B reading that finds Meshell Ndegeocello’s subtle and soulful vocals backed by Moran’s Fender Rhodes and punchy horns. (Ndegeocello and Don Was coproduced the album.) Bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, members of Moran’s trio Bandwagon, appear on “Lulu’s Back in Town” and “Sheik of Araby/I Found a New Baby,” songs that stutter and swing as they look both forward and back. Moran turns in a solo version of “Handful of Keys” that draws from Waller but goes its own way, even including sound effects at one point. Vocalist Lisa E. Harris steps to the fore on one of the album’s highlights, “Honeysuckle Rose,” where her voice is shaded by Leron Thomas’s muted trumpet.
1. Put Your Hands on It (Jason Moran) 0:20
2. Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Harry Brooks / Andy Razaf / Fats Waller) 3:42
3. Yacht Club Swing (Herman Autrey / J.C. Johnson / Fats Waller) 4:02
4. Lulu’s Back in Town (Al Dubin / Harry Warren) 2:38
5. Two Sleepy People (Hoagy Carmichael / Frank Loesser) 4:07
6. The Joint Is Jumpin’ (J.C. Johnson / Andy Razaf / Fats Waller) 5:10
7. Honeysuckle Rose (Andy Razaf / Fats Waller) 3:48
8. Ain’t Nobody’s Business (Porter Grainger / Everett Robbins) 4:20
9. Fats Elegy (Jason Moran) 1:46
10. Handful of Keys (Fats Waller) 2:55
11. Jitterbug Waltz (Fats Waller) 6:13
12. Sheik of Araby/I Found a New Baby (Jack Palmer / Harry B. Smith / Ted Snyder / Francis Wheeler / Spencer Williams) 5:00
Jason Moran: Rhodes, piano, Wurlitzer
Charles Haynes: drums, vocals
Stephen Lehman: saxophone
Tarus Mateen: bass
Lisa Harris: vocals (2, 7, 11)
Meshell Ndegeocello: vocals (3, 6, 8), background vocals (7)
Josh Roseman: trombone
Leron Thomas: trumpet, vocals
Nasheet Waits: drums (4, 12)
Recorded 2013, at Brooklyn Recording, New York
Produced by Don Was & Meshell Ndegeocello
Recorded by Bob Power, except tracks 4 & 12, recorded by Andy Taub
Mixed by Bob Power
Engineer: Rick Kwan
Mastered by Pete Min
Production Coordination: Ivo Skoff
Art Direction & Design: Hayden Miller
Jason Moran is an artist who is not afraid to look back while constantly pressing forward. The 2010 MacArthur Fellow is a leading jazz pianist with moments of kinetic energy, agility, and sensitivity, the likes of his one-time teacher, the great Jaki Byard. Whether performing with varied ensembles and musicians, bringing new perspectives as the Artistic Director for Jazz at The Kennedy Center or combining freestyle jazz with live skateboarders in San Francisco, Moran’s passion and capacity is having an impact in the way jazz is seen and heard.
All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller re-envisions the music of the colorful pianist, singer, and entertainer who shook things up during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s. Fats Waller’s bright musical canvas is the perfect outlet for Moran’s multicolored ideas; a boisterous amalgam of blues, jazz, and house music, reshaping famous Waller tunes like “Ain’t Misbehaving” and “The Joint Is Jumpin.'” The recording harnesses Waller’s infectious spirit caring less about the demarcation between musical genres while putting emphasis on Waller’s incredible talents.
In collaboration with respected multi-genre musician/vocalist MeShell NdegeOcello, the release is an extension of ideas that came to fruition in 2011 through the Harlem Stage commissioned Fats Waller Dance Party. Ongoing dates at venues and universities found people eager to put their dance shoes on and Moran donning an oversized papier-mâché mask of Waller’s head as the band provided hot grooves.
The signal that All Rise is anything but nostalgic arrives in the low pitched hip-hop processed voice in the funky “Put Your Hands on It” which sets up “Ain’t Misbehavin'” with its snazzy horn arrangement, Moran jazzing it on Rhodes as Ndegeocello’s sensual voice brings the song’s famous lyrics. The musicians also include varied vocalists, members of Moran’s Bandwagon trio—Taurus Mateen on electric bass and drummer Nasheet Waits, and a tight horn section with heightened contributions from trombonist Josh Roseman and trumpeter Leron Thomas. The reworking of Waller’s 1929 “Honeysuckle Rose” hits the sweet spot, the perfect combination of laid-back funkiness, smooth arranging and a soulful vamp. Though Waller was well known for his songwriting, Moran sheds light on his musicianship in “Lulu’s Back in Town” with a riveting display of pianistic bravura and “Handful of Keys” where he adds his own virtuosic flair to Waller’s well known stride-piano solo piece.
Moran proves once again that jazz is a transformative art-form in his unique arrangement of Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.” The tune is almost unrecognizable yet gorgeously reshaped as saxophonist Steve Lehman adds a rousing solo to Moran’s touching version. Regardless of the era in which created, music still has the ability to move listeners in varied ways whether to sing, dance, or simply listen in a new way.
Mark F. Turner (AllAboutJazz)