Why did he choose the Town Hall album? "That was a suggestion from the San Francisco Jazz Festival and I responded. I wanted to try something large and they said "what do you have in mind?' That's where it started. That was the first time that I'd played Monk's music for an entire evening and it's a very different sound that comes from playing Monk tune after Monk tune. Living in that world, at the piano, was tempting and scary. You've heard that music so much that you might be tempted to actually try to play like him," he laughs. The evening will open with Moran in conversation with trombonist/scholar George Lewis and conceptual artist Glenn Ligon. Moran recalls his first meeting with Ligon. "We exchanged a lot of ideas. He's a huge Monk fan. I was in London and he had a show there. The name of the exhibition was "Brilliant Corners' and I knew of only one place where those two words sit side by side!" Back in New York, the two arranged to talk Monk in a restaurant. "Glenn's knowledge of Monk is intimidating. We talked a lot about what he represents, how he has interacted with his band members. There aren't many composers around who wrote this way. I started to think about Monk from multiple angles and tried to expose these onstage. At many points during the show, we play the song "Thelonious' and each time it's different. One time, we're playing with headphones on, listening to the original recording, the second, the band comes out and they play it normally, the third time, we play it very slow, almost as a dirge, walking through the slave plantation, the fourth time with drummers from Rwanda and the fifth time, everybody in the band puts on headphones, but the audience can't hear the sound." All of this guarantees a truly devotional evening of Monkishness, guided by a jazzman who is well qualified to invoke the tilted spirit of this towering genius in both performance and composition.
Jason Moran, Soundtrack to Human Emotion (Blue Note, 1998)