Since his formidable emergence on the music scene in the late 90s, jazz pianist Jason Moran has proven more than his brilliance as a performer. The Blue Note Records recording artist has established himself as a risk-taker and innovator of new directions for jazz as a whole.
In almost every category that matters – improvisation, composition, group concept, repertoire, technique and experimentation – Moran, and his group The Bandwagon – with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits – have challenged the status quo, and earned the reputation as “the future of jazz.”
Frequently influenced by the wider world of art as his muse, Moran has found inspiration in edgy 20th century painters like Jean-Michel Basquiat; Egon Schiele (whose painting “Facing Left” provided the eponymous title to Moran’s second album); and Robert Rauschenberg, whose chaotic refinement inspired Moran’s third album Black Stars, featuring the legendary Sam Rivers.
In 2005, his blues homage, Same Mother was released. This same year he received the first ever Playboy Jazz Artist of the Year award. Artist in Residence debuted in 2006 and showcased Moran’s signature brilliance with ambitious undertakings. In the span of one year, Moran accepted and recorded three separate commissions from three pre-eminent and very diverse American arts institutions: The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Dia Art Foundation, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
In 2007, Moran was commissioned to create IN MY MIND: Monk at Town Hall, 1959, the critically-acclaimed multi-media performance investigating Thelonious Monk’s famous recording, Monk at Town Hall. IN MY MIND examines Monk’s process of creating this seminal concert using audio of conversations with Monk and the arranger Hal Overton. Not surprising, the legendary Monk had a pivotal role in influencing young Moran to become a jazz musician. In 1981, at the age of six, the Houston native began studying the piano, but longed to quit until he first heard the sounds of Monk, an experience that established an early role model in Moran’s creative development. Moran later honed his musical education at New York’s Manhattan School of Music.
His ongoing visionary collaborations in the art world have brought him additional fans and respect. Moran’s music is in the collections of both the MOMA and Whitney Museum of American Art. He scored a ballet for renowned Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, as well as scoring video works for contemporary American artists Glenn Ligon and Kara Walker. Moran also has worked with pivotal visual/performance artists Joan Jonas and Adrian Piper. A future collaboration with Grammy-nominated neo-soul artist Meshell Ndegeocello – a dance party centered on the music of Fats Waller – premiered in 2011.