Jason Moran: In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall

Provocative, iconoclastic, courageous, and innovative are among the adjectives regularly pitched in the direction of Jason Moran, a 34-year-old jazz pianist and conceptual artist who's striving to do no less than reshape the landscape of contemporary jazz in the context of both historical precedent and popular culture. Much the same could be said about the inspiration for Moran's multimedia Walker performance: Thelonious Monk, whose concert at New York's Town Hall 50 years ago was the iconic pianist's first, and perhaps greatest, leading a big band. Strongly influenced by Monk, Moran pays tribute to him in "In My Mind" by playing interpretations of the compositions Monk performed that night, but also shining a light on Monk's—and Moran's—life and artistry through samples of Monk's actual playing, conversations, videos, and still photography. The collage-like nature of the project in many ways reflects Moran's overall approach to music, which can reference visual art, include snippets of language, and build music from syntax, all the while focusing on a definition of 21st-century jazz by running the gamut from stride and classical to hip hop and avant-garde abstraction, and including bits of virtually everything in between. Moran's group, the Bandwagon, is distinctly and instinctively able to handle such a stretch, having grown from a trio featuring bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Watts to an octet here, including trumpeter Ralph Alessi, trombonist Isaac Smith, saxophonists Logan Richardson III and Aaron Stewart, and Howard Johnson on tuba. Earlier this week, hear him discuss his work for free at the Making Music Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 7, also at the Walker. (photo by Clay Patrick McBride)
Sat., May 9, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2009

 
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