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Take Five: Riveting New Music by Jason Moran, Chris Pattishall, Yoko Miwa and Jakob Bro

Along with a label homecoming for legendary drummer-composer Joe Chambers.

Jason Moran, “Body & Soul with Intimate Friends (Shadow)”

The first transcendent album of this new year has landed. But The Sound Will Tell You is more than the third solo piano release by Jason Moran; it’s also a soundtrack to the exhibition of the same name, which just went up at Luhring Augustine Tribeca.

In the show, which runs through Feb. 27, Moran probes Black history and identity through a hybridized artistic practice — draping the keys on his piano with Japanese printmaking paper, and recording the traces of his playing in various pigments. The most striking of these is a deep blue associated with the ancient Egyptians, and recreated (probably sometime in the 1920s) by the pioneering African American agricultural scientist George Washington Carver.

Credit Luhring Augustine
Luhring Augustine
Jason Moran, 'Bathing the Room with Blues 2,' 2020, Pigment on Gampi paper.

Any close observer of Moran’s career will recognize this turn in his work, which first surfaced in a major exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art in 2019. And anyone familiar with Moran’s music will understand how these conceptual linkages have always been a motivator for him, however they choose to manifest.

For a prime example, consider the version of “Body and Soul” featured on The Sound Will Tell You. Moran has been putting his own spin on the foundational standard for ages; it appears on his first solo piano album, Modernistic. But in this arrangement, he outfits the song with elements of “Intimate Friends,” a 1977 single by the incomparable soul singer Eddie Kendricks. Knowing Moran, it seems likely that he’s interested here not only in Kendricks but also in the afterlife of this song, which was sampled on “https://youtu.be/zhxm35g3Qa8" target="_blank">Light,” a 2017 album track by Big Sean. (Opening line: “Look, I spent my whole life tryna improvise.”)

Elsewhere on his new release, Moran references Toni Morrison, in language and spirit. One piece, “For Love,” was recently heard in the film version of Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. As for the exhibition and album title, Moran says it was borrowed by the culinary griot Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor. “She was asked how did she know when the fried chicken was finished cooking,” Moran writes. “She responded ‘The Sound Will Tell You.’”

The Sound Will Tell You is available now on Bandcamp; the exhibition runs through Feb. 27 at Luhring Augustine Tribeca.

Chris Pattishall, “Libra”

Pianist Chris Pattishall should be a familiar presence if you’ve been keeping tabs on the New York scene: as a sideman, his elliptical orbit has included everyone from the bright young South African crooner Vuyo Sotashe to the late saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath. Zodiac, Pattishall’s forthcoming debut, strikes a characteristic balance of old and new — approaching Mary Lou Williams’ landmark Zodiac Suite with an interpretative flair that honors the original intention. Produced by guitarist and Son Lux member Rafiq Bhatia, the album features contributions from trumpeter Riley Mulherkar, drummer Jamison Ross and others.

Pattishall performs the suite’s sixth movement, “Libra,” alone at the piano. The video above, which premieres at WBGO, is from a recent concert presentation of Zodiac, which Pattishall presented as part of a Duke Performances artist residency. Because solo piano is the format in which Williams recorded the https://youtu.be/1U76PXMiPA0" target="_blank">original version of this song, there’s an easy point of comparison — making it all the clearer just how much exquisite care Pattishall brings to his tribute.

Chris Pattishall’s Zodiac will release on Feb. 19; preorder here.

Jakob Bro “To Stanko”

We’ve opined favorably in this space before about Danish guitarist Jakob Bro, whose music taps a well of unhurried rumination. This has rarely been truer than on Uma Elmo, his fifth album for ECM Records, due out on Feb. 12. It features a European trio whose members are well suited to painterly gestures; along with Bro, its members are the Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen and the Spanish drummer Jorge Rossy.

“To Stanko” is Bro’s dedication to the late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko, who featured him on the fine 2009 album Dark Eyes. The minor-key progression, Bro’s arpeggiated guitar part, and Rossy’s spare percussion might briefly call to mind another unconventional trio — the one composed of Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell. But among other things, the whispery, flute-like timbres employed by Henriksen are a reminder that this group inhabits its own dreamlike realm.

Jakob Bro’s Uma Elmo will be released on ECM on Feb. 12; preorder here.

Yoko Miwa, “Think of One”

A product of Kobe, Japan by way of the Berklee College of Music, pianist Yoko Miwa has lately been earning robust acclaim — in her native Japan, in her adopted hometown of Boston, and increasingly beyond those spheres. Her new album, Songs of Joy, due out on the Ubuntu label on Feb. 12, will only help things along.

Miwa’s working trio has Will Slater on bass and Scott Goulding on drums. On their version of “Think of One,” the Thelonious Monk tune, they take a relaxed, bobbing approach to groove. During the solo piano intro, and in the pauses that she builds into her phrasing (especially after the two-minute mark), Miwa gives the impression of thinking on her feet — a quality that suits the material to a T.

Yoko Miwa’s Songs of Joy will release on Ubuntu Music on Feb. 12; preorder here.

Joe Chambers, “Samba de Maracatu”

Finally, this edition of Take Five concludes with a living legend: drummer-composer Joe Chambers, 78, who just released the first single from a forthcoming album on Blue Note Records. As a sideman, Chambers graces more than his share of classics on the label, by the likes of Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Wayne Shorter. He has one previous Blue Note album to his name, the 1998 release Mirrors. So Samba de Maracatu, which releases on Feb. 26, marks a welcome return.

The title track, a Chambers original https://youtu.be/rAvupr7kXYI" target="_blank">previously featured on his Savant album Landscapes, finds him overdubbing drums and percussion, including the vibraphone that handles the melodic lead. On piano is Brad Merritt, and on bass is Steve Haines. Together they weave a lilting tapestry, recalling the sounds of Brazil as well as the legacy of Blue Note artists like Hutcherson (whose “Visions” is among the other pieces on the album).

Joe Chambers’ Samba de Maracatu releases on Blue Note on Feb. 26; preorder here.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.