All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Profiles

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

722

Jason Moran

Martin Longley By

Sign in to view read count
Pianist Jason Moran usually plays well within the jazz tradition, but often adopts a sideways slant, open to electronic interference or maybe an askew cover version of a pop or rap tune. Growing up in Houston, he went on to study at the Manhattan School Of Music, becoming firmly entrenched on the New York scene.



He's now becoming increasingly concerned with the world of multimedia presentation, the latest example of which is "In My Mind: Monk At Town Hall, 1959," inspired by the pianist who revealed Moran's route to complete enjoyment on his chosen instrument, back when he was only 13 years old. "I'd been playing piano for six, seven years," says Moran. "The Suzuki piano [method], which is not exactly as interesting as Monk playing "Round Midnight.' My dad has a pretty good record collection, so I listened to Monk over and over again." The "In My Mind" piece's dedication to Monk is quite specific in its intention, concentrating on a particular vinyl album, Monk At Town Hall 1959 (Riverside), which featured a 10-piece orchestra. Moran's piece was a joint commission from Duke University, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Jazz Festival and Washington DC Performing Arts Society and was performed for those bodies in 2007, timed for the celebrations of what would have been Monk's 90th birthday. The full New York premiere will be at Town Hall in February 2009, but Moran is presenting a smaller-scale quintet preview at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse this month. "In My Mind" examines the background to Monk's life, incorporating video pieces by David Dempewolf and samples of the original 1959 band rehearsals for the Town Hall gig.

The other inspirations behind this show are a pilgrimage that Moran made to Monk's birthplace in North Carolina, where he rifled through the photography collection of W. Eugene Smith, housed in the archives of the Duke University Jazz Loft Project. "At the Center For Documentary Studies," says Moran, "they had audio tape of Monk rehearsing the music for his Town Hall concert, recorded by W. Eugene Smith. It's an extensive archive that they haven't even completed. They're digitizing these analogue tapes: there's even more out there. So I spent a lot of time at Duke University, listening to these tapes of Monk in a room with the arranger Hall Overton, sitting at two pianos. He was showing him every tune, chord by chord, melody by melody and talking at length about how he thinks the compositions should sound, from start to finish. This was the first time for me to hear him being extremely descriptive and detailed about every nuance of what he was doing. A part of me actually thought that what he was playing were often mistakes that he actually enjoyed, but from hearing the tapes, every bit is deliberate. There are no mistakes. This made me regard Monk as further than a genius. It was much more of a sign of his artistry, when I got to hear those tapes. I got clearance to use this audio in the concert, so that audiences could hear him talk, uninterrupted. Strings of sentences, from a person who has many times been regarded as "mute.'"

The concentration on the 1959 album means that Moran will be reshaping tunes that include "Little Rootie Tootie," "Off Minor" and "Crepuscule With Nellie." Moran will be playing all of the pieces from the album, without them undergoing any massive rearrangement. "There's video of his rehearsal loft, around 28th Street," Moran enthuses. "What it looks like now and pictures of what it looked like when Monk was in there rehearsing. There's also footage of the estate, the plantation where Monk's great-grandparents were slaves, in an effort to visualize his history and how it connects to me, as a pianist and as an AfroAmerican. To do different arrangements of the music is only part of it. There's the context: it's 1959 and he's playing at Town Hall. Civil Rights haven't even really started firing up. We're right at the cusp of that. The New York Times panned it: they liked his playing with a quartet, but thought that this was "pipe and slippers' music."

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland Profiles
Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland
by Charles Suhor
Published: September 2, 2018
Read Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018 Profiles
Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 17, 2018
Read Remembering Tomasz Stanko Profiles
Remembering Tomasz Stanko
by AAJ Staff
Published: July 29, 2018
Read SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In Profiles
SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In
by Arthur R George
Published: July 19, 2018
Read Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night Profiles
Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night
by Arthur R George
Published: July 2, 2018
Read On Stage at JALC: Paul Jost Profiles
On Stage at JALC: Paul Jost
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: June 23, 2018
Read "Remembering Tomasz Stanko" Profiles Remembering Tomasz Stanko
by AAJ Staff
Published: July 29, 2018
Read "On Stage at JALC: Paul Jost" Profiles On Stage at JALC: Paul Jost
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: June 23, 2018
Read "Bob Dorough: 1923-2018" Profiles Bob Dorough: 1923-2018
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 26, 2018
Read "Fabian Almazan: Environmental Action Figure" Profiles Fabian Almazan: Environmental Action Figure
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: January 9, 2018
Read "Mark Turner: Grounded in a Spiritual World" Profiles Mark Turner: Grounded in a Spiritual World
by Kurt Rosenwinkel
Published: October 17, 2017