Acoustic Sounds

Jason Moran

The Sound Will Tell You



Label: Yes

Produced By: Jason Moran

Engineered By: Amon Drum

Mixed By: Amon Drum

Mastered By: Greg Calbi

By: Fred Kaplan

July 25th, 2023





Jason Moran's Lovely Pitch-Black Rainbow

The pianist's solo soundtrack of our decade

As I’ve noted a few times in this space, Jason Moran is the most versatile, virtuosic jazz pianist on the scene. Around the turn of the decade, as player and composer, he focused on elegiac melodies, deceptively simple in form, rich in harmonies and textures, stirring, even spiritual, in their quest. Some tracks on this album from that period, The Sound Will Tell You, resemble movie music (but deep movie music); two of them were written for the HBO adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me (which was a deep movie indeed). Other tracks evoke ripples of sea and light; romance with only a wisp of sentimentality; brooding melancholy without melodrama; mystery without coyness; a sprightly dance disrupted with blues. There’s also a cover of “Body and Soul,” a standard that Moran has probed many times over the years, starting with his startlingly novel take on his 2002 album Modernistic (also a solo project). For this variation, he circles around the theme, never landing on it, though teasing a sensuality befitting of the title.

 Recorded in the first week of 2021, The Sound Will Tell You serves—and should endure—as a soundtrack of that plague year, at least of its meditative aspect. All its songs (except “Body and Soul”) were composed by Moran. Many of their titles come from phrases in Toni Morrison’s novels, which Moran says he read most intensely while in quarantine. As his liner notes put it, Morrison “evokes sound often and speaks of the pitch black night as ‘it may as well be a rainbow.’”

 The album was recorded at Bridge Studio, a Brooklyn counterpart to Manhattan’s Sear Sound, similarly sporting vintage microphones, analog consoles, and a staff with a taste for natural sound uncluttered by EQ or other electronic enhancements.

Engineer Amon Drum emailed: "The album was recorded & mixed during quarantine and came out very quickly. I was not involved in the mastering process. It was slated to go to Sterling but Covid had its way w/ the Mastering engineer ( who I will not mention for privacy's sake). The album was recorded w/ Schoeps & Neumann Mics w/ ProTools @ 96k 24b. Mixed on a Harrison 4032. Jason is a very instinctual musician He doesn't overthink things, he moves quickly in a session. As soon as he sits down to the piano we roll. After one warm up pass I recall him coming into the control room and asking 'can you make the piano drip' I said 'sure!' We quickly came up w/ a mostly analog/digital - hybrid effect that stayed true to the instrument but has this fuzzy, underwater, movement or a 'drip'. The intention was to be surrounded at times in this world. It was not done in post. He recorded live w/ the effect."

 Bandcamp put out a download-only edition of the album in early 2021, but, perhaps due to a rushed mastering job, the sound was meh; dynamics in particular were squashed. I held off writing about it for Stereophile (where I was reviewing records at the time) because Bridge’s proprietor-engineer, Amon Drum, told me that a physical product, with improved sound, would come out shortly. Only recently did I notice a CD listed on the website of Moran’s self-owned Yes Records (apparently it was released sometime in 2022, though he doesn’t remember exactly when). And the sound is indeed repaired, thanks presumably to mastering by Greg Calbi (who was not involved in the earlier version). The piano sounds lush and percussive, whether hushed or jolting, depending what mood Moran is aiming for.

Yes, I’m a bit late on this, but very good music is timeless. A vinyl edition will be released "end of summer".

Music Specifications

Catalog No: YR003


Channels: Stereo

Presentation: CD


  • 2023-07-26 02:51:01 PM

    Joe Harley wrote:

    Just worked with him on a forthcoming Charles Lloyd album. Jason Moran is a force of nature!