Planet Rock

Austin, Texas, SXSW 2005

Jason Moran

Cedar Street Courtyard, Wednesday, March 16

On a particularly chilly night in this open-air courtyard, Jason Moran came prepared. Nattily attired in a cream-colored overcoat with matching fedora and red scarf, the Houston-born, NYC-based pianist was the attraction for jazz fans at a music festival that's historically paid only passing attention to the genre. For the 100 or so diehards bundled together in front of the stage, Moran's three tune, 30-minute set was revelatory. His new Blue Note album, Same Mother, explores the relationship of jazz and blues. Following a short, prerecorded intro to his group Bandwagon, Moran plunged right in, opening with "Blackout," a blues shuffle. With guitarist Marvin Sewell augmenting the pianist's longtime rhythm section, drummer Nasheet Waits and electric bassist Tarus Mateen, the quartet dug a deep Southwest groove to start. Gradually, Moran, playing an upright piano, took the music increasingly outside and away from its blues moorings, only to have Sewell lead the band back to the basics with his boogie chords. Waits and Mateen demonstrated why they're the hippest young rhythm section in jazz, with their intricate and mesmerizing interplay that allows Moran to really open the music up. Which is precisely what happened next with Moran and Sewell, on acoustic guitar, beginning a bluesy musical conversation that quickly evolved into a sprawling and intense free-jazz explosion. Moran brought it back down, inviting folks to dance to the set's closer, a funky, cerebral exploration of Afrika Bambaataa's hip-hop anthem "Planet Rock." It was enough to warm anyone's soul.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Friday Picks & Sleepers
Friday Picks & Sleepers
Obvious Picks and loads of not-so-obvious Sleepers!

March 20, 2015

Thursday Showcases
Thursday Showcases
International hip-hop, or domestic, Modern Outsider sounds?

March 20, 2015

More by Jay Trachtenberg
Book Review: <i>Black Leopard, Red Wolf</i>
Book Review: Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Marlon James’ epic new novel is a literary phantasmagoria

April 2, 2019

Texas Platters
Rosie Flores
Simple Case of the Blues (Record Review)

March 22, 2019

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle