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Texas Takes Manhattan, To Great Effect

The performers of 713-->212: Houstonians in NYC on stage at 92YTribeca in New York City. John Rogers/Courtesy of Jason Moran hide caption

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John Rogers/Courtesy of Jason Moran

The performers of 713-->212: Houstonians in NYC on stage at 92YTribeca in New York City.

John Rogers/Courtesy of Jason Moran

In the middle of January, the jazz pianist and MacArthur Fellow Jason Moran took his talents to South Manhattan. He organized a two-night, ridiculous-in-a-good-way concert revue called 713 —> 212: Houstonians In NYC, featuring musicians — jazz and otherwise — from his Texas hometown.

Great musicians come from all over, but Houston represents in force. Internationally acclaimed talents like Moran, Robert Glasper, Eric Harland and Chris Dave all came from the same performing arts high school — as did Helen Sung, Mark Kelley, Kendrick Scott, Jamire Williams, Alan Hampton, Mike Moreno, etc. and so forth. There were also singer-songwriters, and backup vocalists, and plenty of the esteemed elders: Billy Harper, Frank Lacy, Michael Carvin and more. Moran's high school jazz band director, Robert "Doc" Morgan, even flew up for the event.

A surplus of talent and 713 pride, under one roof: You get the picture. One night was devoted to singer-songwriters and R&B; the other to modern jazz expressions. Nearly all the musicians in all seven bands were from Houston. And our friends at WBGO's The Checkout were there to record every minute of the proceedings, live at 92YTribeca.

Another programming twist: Most of the bands did a cover of a song by a Houston artist or about Houston — jazz or not. That means we got incredible reinventions like this:

  1. Alan Hampton - ZZ Top, "Sharp Dressed Man" (duo with Jason Moran)
  2. Leron Thomas - Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, "Superman Lover" (feat. Ku-umba Frank Lacy)
  3. Josh Mease - Lee Hazlewood, "Houston"
  4. Jamire Williams & ERIMAJ - Geto Boys, "Mind Playing Tricks On Me"
  5. Kendrick Scott Oracle - Archie Bell & The Drells, "Tighten Up"
  6. Robert Glasper & Jason Moran duo - Scarface, "My Block" (piano sample from Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack, "Be Real Black For Me")

Start listening to the two hour-long episodes of The Checkout for highlights, or just pick off the concerts you want to hear in their entirety. [The Checkout: Houstonians in NYC: Live at 92YTribeca]

P.S. Need more? The New York Times' Ben Ratliff was there, and wrote about it. ("Some very good music went down.") And "Doc" Morgan was featured on the blog a while back, when I asked him for embarrassing stories about today's heroes.