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Jason Moran on 'The Bandwagon'

By Published: October 9, 2003
JM: That’s what it is...People come up to me after a show and say, ‘I’ve never heard anything like that. I don’t know anything about jazz, but what I heard tonight was just amazing. If jazz is like that, than I’m a hard core fan right now’.

AAJ: That must be gratifying.

JM: That’s the best compliment I could ever get. That they’ve never heard anything like that, that they don’t know about me, they’ve never heard my music, and they enjoyed it. Because that’s the true response. Unstudied. Unstained. I wish I had normal ears! I wish I couldn’t analyze every frickin’ note I hear in my life. It’s just an annoying thing that you can’t hear things otherwise.

AAJ: It’s hard to get out of the world.

JM: It’s impossible. Impossible.

AAJ: That’s something a lot of artists I talk to say. Everyone has that wish to go back to the state of so-called naiveté, just every once in awhile.

JM: Right, right.

AAJ: I find myself seeking out other forms, things I don’t know about and deliberately not learning about them. So I can have my things where I can just lean back and, you know, ahhhh. Relax. Otherwise, you go crazy.


JM: Right. That’s so true.

AAJ: That sort of brings up something else I was curious about. I’ve heard you’re a movie buff. You’ve got a few things on your webpage about that.

JM: Yeah, I need to do some updating. What I was going to start was ‘Films I’ve Seen Recently” you know, that kind of page. A ‘Music I’m Listening to Now’ page. But film is like the combination of all the arts in one. Recently I started doing some short film scores with some young directors which has really been an amazing experience.

AAJ: At least for me, there’s such a deep connection between visual stimulus and sound.

JM: Oh yeah. And it should be. For myself as well. Most people who I know who play music very interestingly have an appreciate for [and here Moran pointed over my shoulder, drawing my attention to back of the room]... for things like that corner. How that clock is slightly tilted in that corner over there.

AAJ: Spatial relations.

JM: Exactly.

AAJ: I just spoke with Jane Ira Bloom on this topic a bit.

JM: Right, the Pollock project. Great artists influence other artists regardless of the field. Now, I’m not a buff but I check out a fair amount of films and I always ask directors, ‘Tell me your favorites. Give me five of your favorite scores, which films are those?” And they send me to the wildest sources.

AAJ: I think that’s a misnomer as well. The stigma of going to L.A. to be a studio musician, as if that’s selling out.

JM: It’s not selling out. Everybody has different goals. Playing on a soundtrack is definitely major money. Or it can be. So I don’t knock that. Most musicians have to survive any way possible, no matter what the means are. Sometimes that can mean playing for a Colgate commercial to earn your twenty thousand dollars, what’s wrong with that?

AAJ: I agree, I think it’s dangerous for the arts if you limit the way people can survive. I mean, you need to make money to fund your art.

JM: That’s right.

AAJ: Are the directors you’re working with N.Y. or L.A. based?

JM: These are young guys, one girl—they were coming out of NYU Grad. School. So you know everyone has to do a thesis. So the one girl, when we did Black Stars she shot a short documentary about it. [It was] about nine minutes...I in turn did the music for her film, and she introduced me to the other directors.

AAJ: That’s great. I’m sort of an old school film fan. I really want that New York scene to come back....I’m curious about the title Facing Left. Does that reflect a political statement?

JM: Partially. But not really. It came from Egon Schiele the painter. He had a portrait called “Self Portrait: Facing Left” And, oh man, it’s crazy. So I decided that’s what we were trying to develop as a trio. This right way of looking left. Not to confine ourselves. That’s been the great thing about this group. We don’t imprison ourselves and throw away the key. So Facing Left has to do with looking in a different direction but still maintaining everything that has come before us in order to inform the future but not necessarily in the way that you may think. A leftists version.

AAJ: That’s always something very important. There’s been such a tendency to enshrine jazz, especially in the eighties, but now younger musicians are...

JM: Trying to bust that open.

AAJ: I can think of people like Scott Colley, Geoff Keezer. Do you think that movement is taking form?

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