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

Bob Harrigan rharrigan at
Wed Nov 30 13:28:13 EST 2011

Dr.Jazz,Contact information for Jason?Thanks,Bob H.

-----Original Message----- 
From: Dr. Jazz
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 9:22 PM
To: jazzproglist at
Subject: [JPL] Jason Moran named Kennedy Center’s artistic adviser for jazz

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.’ ”

Dr. Jazz
Dr. Jazz Operations
24270 Eastwood
Oak Park, MI  48237
(248) 542-7888
SKYPE:  drjazz99


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