Jason Moran: In New York City, Houston Means Jazz

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Photos courtesy Blue Note/EMI North America
Jazz pianist Jason Moran thought he'd vary the routine for recording his latest album, Ten. Usually, Moran and his bandmates would be at the studio by 10 a.m. -"That's really early for jazz musicians," he jokes - and work through the day.

This time the Houston born Moran decided to be a little bit more laid-back about things.

"We'd go eat barbecue for lunch and then get to the studio around 1 p.m., so everything was more casual," he says.

Barbecue? In New York City? Where could a guy that grew up in Third Ward find decent barbecue in NYC?

"Oh, there's a place here, I promise I could take anyone there and they would swear they were in Texas," he says.

There's something else that frequently reminds Moran of home - all the Houston jazz musicians currently working in the Big Apple. Moran admits that most people living in Texas would think the state is best known for producing blues and country musicians, but in New York City, Houston has the reputation for producing jazz musicians.

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"I think HSPVA had a lot to do with that," he tells Rocks Off. "More and more of us came up here after graduating to go to school and then ended up staying. Now when you meet someone here and say you're from Houston, they say, 'Oh, you play jazz.' I run into somebody from Houston every week. We're all over here."

Moran admits the transition from Houston to New York isn't easy, even with the promise of great training and more opportunities to gig.

"Lots of people go home. It's so expensive here," he says. "Everything is so rushed and people are ... not rude, just rushed.

"I cried the night before I left Houston to come up here," he laughs. "I just sat down and cried. But after a couple of weeks, I was kind of settling in. I thought, 'This isn't so bad. I can do this.' So I stayed."

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