[JPL] Jason Moran named Kennedy Center’s artistic adviser for jazz

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Tue Nov 29 21:22:40 EST 2011


http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/jason-moran-named-kennedy-centers-new-artistic-adviser-for-jazz/2011/11/28/gIQA3XAu8N_story.html

Jason Moran named Kennedy Center’s artistic adviser for jazz
By Jess Righthand, Tuesday, November 29, 11:10 AM

Jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran was named Tuesday as the Kennedy 
Center’s artistic adviser for jazz. Moran will be only the second person 
to hold the position, following a 16-year stint by one of his mentors, 
the iconic pianist and educator Billy Taylor, who served from 1994 until 
his death last December.

“I have a lot of ideas that I think will fit well with the Kennedy 
Center, so this is very exciting,” Moran says.

The 36-year-old pianist inherits a robust program, thanks in large part 
to his predecessor. Taylor — who started at the Kennedy Center as a 
seasoned musician, educator and broadcaster in his early 70s — 
shepherded the jazz program from several scattered concerts each year to 
a constant bounty of shows, master classes, lectures, workshops and 
interviews on his beloved radio show, “Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the 
Kennedy Center.”

Moran “is someone that is firmly rooted in the tradition of the music,” 
says Kevin Struthers, the Kennedy Center’s director of jazz programming, 
who will work with Moran over his three-year appointment to curate 
artists for concerts and jazz education. “As one of the foremost 
contemporary artists on the scene, I think he’ll bring a more 
contemporary aspect to the music, and to our programming, without 
disrespecting the past but still looking ahead to where the music is going.”

One of Moran’s primary tasks will be to strike that at-times elusive 
balance between honoring jazz tradition and pushing innovation. Moran, 
who has played with the likes of Greg Osby, Joe Lovano, Lee Konitz, 
Christian McBride and Cassandra Wilson, is generally seen as a musical 
innovator who blends the traditions of blues and jazz with more modern 
elements of funk, rock and hip-hop. He has received several “Rising 
Star” awards from Downbeat magazine’s critics polls, as well as a 2010 
MacArthur fellowship, and has released eight albums, both solo and with 
his group, the Bandwagon. He has become a prolific collaborator, 
particularly in the past five years, forging dialogue between jazz and 
the visual arts, dance, documentary film and other musical traditions.

Despite his reputation as a musician who likes to shake things up, Moran 
has firsthand knowledge of the legacy he has been tapped to carry on. 
Taylor was a mentor to Moran; the two met when Taylor gave a master 
class at Moran’s Houston high school. Taylor followed the younger 
pianist’s budding career, turning him on to the University of 
Massachusetts at Amherst’s Billy Taylor Jazz Residency program (which he 
completed in 2006) and engaging him in discussions about the future of jazz.

Some of Moran’s most recent projects were influenced by Taylor. “I 
remember he said this wonderful thing. Well, he said lots of wonderful 
things. But he said, ‘Okay, Jason, can people dance to your music?’ ” 
Moran says this served as the impetus for his Fats Waller Dance Party, 
held at New York’s Harlem Stage Gatehouse in May, at which he and 
Meshell Ndegeocello layered quintessential jazz standards with danceable 
grooves and riffs.

As the artistic adviser for jazz, Moran hopes to expand the 
accessibility that was so important to Taylor, in part by emphasizing 
that music, and especially jazz, can be fun.

“ ‘Fun’ is not a very intellectual term,” he says, “but I think people 
like good music, people enjoy good drinks and good food, people like to 
move, I think people like to laugh. So, I’m really looking for ways in 
which, through intellectual and investigative music, we can get these 
feelings to occur.”

As a composer, Moran hopes to write music for the artistic bodies at the 
Kennedy Center. More jazz might be integrated into the center’s 
large-scale, international festivals, National Symphony Orchestra 
concerts and even dance productions.

“In a place like the Kennedy Center, you have these wonderful outlets to 
actually write for if you’d like to,” Moran says. “For me, it’s a way to 
bring context to jazz.”

Moran says he will strive to infuse jazz with a balance of diasporic and 
local offerings, a mix he hopes will cater to D.C. tastes.

“D.C. has its own vibe. It’s not like New York, it’s not like Philly, 
it’s not like San Francisco,” he says. “It’s a totally different kind of 
place. So, I’ll also be trying to make sure that these things fit with 
something that the D.C. people are looking for. And, hopefully, it will 
be so interesting that the people from Philly and New York say, ‘Oh, I 
have to go down to D.C. because this is not happening anywhere else.’ ”

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