Jason Moran is a genius. We suspect that was evident to the Houston native's classmates at HSPVA (he's been playing since age six), but now it's official. Last month the Mac- Arthur Foundation named the pianist, now 35 and living in New York City, as one of the 2010 recipients of its annual Genius Grant awards. Already decorated numerous times by Down Beat magazine, Moran is both a dedicated student of jazz — he won raves for his 2009 tribute to Thelonious Monk at Manhattan's Town Hall, captured in the documentary In My Mind — and a trailblazer unafraid to explore the music's common ground with everything from classical to Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock." Recorded with his longtime rhythm section of Tarus Mateen (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums), Moran's new album Ten (Blue Note) blends the trio's spare modern jazz with orchestral flourishes and haunting lyricism, and features guest vocals from Moran's twin sons on "Old Babies." Speaking of the next generation, opening Thursday's free Discovery Green concert is the HSPVA Jazz Ensemble, one (or several) of whom may well follow in Moran's Genius footsteps one day.
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