Music Review: 'All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller' One of the important thinkers in present-day jazz is taking his cue from the 1920's on his latest project. Pianist Jason Moran has released All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller.
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Music Review: 'All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller'

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Music Review: 'All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller'

Review

Music Reviews

Music Review: 'All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When filmmakers want to evoke the romance of American nightlife in the roaring 1920s, they often turn to the hot ripping music of Fats Waller.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE JOINT IS JUMPING")

FATS WALLER: (Singing) The joint, it's really jumpin'. Every Mose is on his toes, I mean this joint is jumpin'.

SIEGEL: With his latest album, Jazz pianist Jason Moran reinvents some of Fats Waller's best-known songs. The album is called, "All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller." Tom Moon has a review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS JOINT IS JUMPING")

MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO: (Singing) They have a new expression, along old Harlem way. When the party's jumpin', when it's twice as more than gay. Say that things are jumpin', leaves no single doubt, that everything is full swing, when you hear somebody shout. This joint is jumpin', it's really jumpin'. Come on cat and check your hats I mean this joint is jumpin'.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Jason Moran has a reputation as one of the deep forward thinkers of current jazz. But for the last few years he's been looking back - way back. To the music of Fats Waller.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS JOINT IS JUMPING")

MOON: Moran says this project started after a long tour of concert halls playing serious jazz with his trio. He realized that nobody was moving when he played. He began to think about the days when jazz was social music and people like Fats Waller made a living by thrilling dancers.

(SOUNDBITE OF JASON MORAN SONG)

MOON: So the pianist began to re-imagine Waller's music. He added funk backbeats and DJ style stutter-steps and expanded the chord progressions just a bit. For his version of "Handful Of Keys," a showstopper Waller often played solo, Moran constructed a series of jagged syncopations that give the tune an angular, modern feel.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HANDFUL OF KEYS")

MOON: Moran's primary collaborator is bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, who coproduced and sings this enchanting languid version of "Ain't Misbehaving."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T MISBEHAVING")

NDEGEOCELLO: (Singing) No one to talk all by myself. No one walk with, I'm happy here all by myself. Ain't misbehaving. I'm saving my love for you, for you, for you, for you, for you, for you, for you, for you.

MOON: Jazz musicians can't resist the impulse to contemporize icons like Fats Waller and often the efforts feel contrived. Moran and his crew avoid this fate by focusing on the contagious exuberance of Waller's music and then fast forwarding it to a modern dance floor, where nobody cares what the music is called as long as it makes you move.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HONEYSUCKLE ROSE")

NDEGEOCELLO: (Singing) When you're passing by, flowers droop and sign and I know the reason why. But I don't mind goodness knows, my Honeysuckle rose.

SIEGEL: Jason Moran's latest album is called, "All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

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