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Jason Moran

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JASON MORAN PRESENTS FATS WALLER DANCE PARTY

An ambitiously creative musician who frequently collaborates with artists in film and dance, pianist Jason Moran is jazz’s wild card, a probing conceptualist who transforms everything he touches into a bracingly contemporary statement. His music combines jagged, kinetic expressionism and unabashed romanticism, bristling with ideas lifted from some of the less explored corners of the jazz piano pantheon. Winner of numerous awards and honors, including a coveted MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2010, the 37-year-old pianist has released a series of projects as satisfying conceptually as they are sonically.

In Depression-era New York jazz clubs, "Fats" Waller was known for getting the party jumping. Now, musicians Jason Moran and Me’Shell Ndegeocello are collaborating on a new project that transforms Waller’s rollicking stride piano style into contemporary dance music.Like so many ideas, this one started with a conversation. Moran was hashing out ideas with his wife and frequent collaborator, Alicia :
"My wife and I were talking about what things I have not done that could be interesting," Moran says. "My wife was like, ’You need to have people dance.’ "

Jazz audiences these days have a reputation for being serious and focused, and most of all for sitting still. But go back 70 or 80 years, and jazz was party music. One of the most popular performers was Waller, an over-the-top entertainer, talented pianist and composer.

"I went and did some research," Ndegeocello says. "At this point in time in society, we’re experiencing another depression — the music that he wrote from that time is so happy and joyful, [a] beautiful expression of black culture, able to take things and moments in time and create this beautiful experience from it."

Ndegeocello and Moran deconstruct the music of Fats Waller and rebuild the sound for a new generation of dancers.
"It’s not really jazz, per se," Moran says. "It’s dance music. It’s club dance music. If you go to a club in the Village or Tribeca or somewhere, this might be what you hear in the club pumping over a sound system. So it’s not jazz."

Moran points out that Waller was a regular in clubs and speakeasies back in his day, and that some of his lyrics fit right in with today’s club music.

- Jason Moran (Piano/keyboards)
- Meshell Ndegeocello (Vocals/guitar/piano/bass)
- Chris Bruce (Guitar)
- Leron Thomas (Vocals/trumpet)
- Josh Roseman (Trombon)
- Jebin Bruni (Keyboards)
- Tarus Mateen (Bass)
- Charles Haynes (Drums)
- Lisa E. Harris (Vocals)

Majia Garcia (choreography)

IN MY MIND

There are few musicians more appropriate than pianist / composer Jason Moran to create an originally themed multi-media performance piece, around the extraordinary "tenet" recording of Thelonious Monk’s 1959 "Town Hall Concert", to be premiered during the 90th anniversary of Monk’s birth, October 2007.

The conceptual tone of this piece integrates samples of original Monk music, conversations and photos of Monk from the vast archives of W. Eugene Smith (now referred to as The Jazz Loft Project with Moran arrangements/reinterpretations of Monk’s compositions.)
The summation of all of these components leads to a new audience experience and immersion into the artifact of the event, within jazz history, and one of its most celebrated composers.

Duke University is the center of The Jazz Loft Project, devoted to preserving and cataloging about 3,000 hours of recordings and almost 40,000 photographs, all the work acclaimed mid-century photojournalist W. Eugene Smith captured the images and recordings from 1957 to 1965 in a Manhattan loft building, where major jazz musicians of the day including luminaries Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Roy Haynes and Lee Konitz met and played. The recordings and photographs reveal extraordinary musical and cultural content, offering unusual documentation of an after-hours New York jazz scene. Monk was recorded in private collaborations with Hall Overton (arranger for the tenet - Town Hall Concert ), a loft resident, and full band rehearsals for now-famous concerts at Town Hall, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall in 1959, 1963 and 1964.

Houston native and NYC resident, Jason Moran uses an "impressionistic approach" to playing piano and composing pieces, visible in his own critically acclaimed trio The Bandwagon and in his work with jazz contemporaries like Cassandra Wilson, Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, and Stefon Harris. As leader of The Bandwagon, and as soloist, Moran has won praise from leading music critics while performing at leading clubs and jazz festivals worldwide. The New York Times boasts that Moran "has proved himself as a deft conceptualist, finding inspiration in the rhythm and tonality of spoken language, in film, in jazz an pop and hip-hop."

In 2005 Moran was named Playboy magazine’s first-ever Jazz Artist of the Year.