WBGO Blog
  • Jason Moran: Live at the Village Vanguard

    October 6, 2010. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

  • Mary Lou Williams Centennial Celebrations Rise Again!

    October 6, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Mary Lou Williams Centennial CelebrationI'm just back from the Mary Lou Williams Centennial Celebration in Madison, WI (where I lived from 1969-82). Mary Lou was briefly an Artist-in-Residence at UW Madison in 1976. Meeting/interviewing her then and immersing myself in her residency put me on my track. Thirty-some years later, it was my honor to participate in this celebration. Madison, by the way, remains one of the all-time hospitable cities - centered on an isthmus between two beautiful lakes - and the home of a dedicated jazz community.

    From Fri through Sun, Howard Landsman and his committee hosted events around town, featuring the UW Hiphop Ensemble, The Music of Mary Lou Wms from 1929-78 presented by her mgr and the Director of the MLW Foundation - Fr Peter O'Brien, and a symposium with Profs Sherrie Tucker, Guy Ramsey, Ted Buehrer and Farrah Griffin. Both MLW biographers - Linda Dahl and Dr. Tammy Kernodle - were in town. On Saturday night at the Capitol Theater, the MLW Collective featuring Madison Poet Laureate Fabu, the magnificent Geri Allen on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, Kassa Overall (the nephew of the current WI Gov and his wife!) on drums, and guest vocalist Carmen Lundy. Everyone was great and all hail Geri. In the first half they presented MLW's Zodiac Suite from the 1940s, but what I loved most was "Peter's Blues" in the second half, animated by Geri's elbows.

    On Sunday morning 8am at Mt Zion Baptist Church, the awesome Leotha Stanley (a committee member) conducted Mary Lou's Mass - a Catholic mass in a Baptist church. After briefly noting that slight mismatch, Stanley launched the choir into an excellent performance, not one bit less stunning than the celebratory May 2010 pfmnces at St. Francis Xavier in Greenwich Village and The Kennedy Center. WOW. Carmen Lundy's singing of the Lazarus story makes time stop for me. Professor George Shirley from the U of MI was the baritone soloist. Sitting in the balcony of this med sized, straightforward sanctuary and facing the choir and a single, modern stained glass window behind it, I had a slightly elevated perspective and felt the joy rising.

    Prof Jimmy Cheatham of the UW Experimental Black Music Ensemble (1972-77) brought MLW to campus in '76. He has passed away, but his wife Jeannie Cheatham came from San Diego to enjoy and be honored by the City of Madison. On Sat night, some of the musicians (older now, like me) gathered to jam in Jimmy and Jeannie's honor. (That link leads you to the Jimmy & Jeannie Cheatham Collection, now online from the Marr Sound Archive at  Univ of Missouri in Kansas City.) It was small with a lot of love. You could not ask for more.

  • Jason Moran And The Bandwagon: Live At The Village Vanguard

    October 6, 2010. Posted by WBGO.

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    Jason Moran. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    Observers of modern jazz have long known about the unique talents of composer and pianist Jason Moran. This fall, it's come into sharp relief that at age 35, he's already done an awful lot with them. Mostly with The Bandwagon, Moran's trio of 10 years, he has developed a deep repertoire of originals and innovative arrangements. The Bandwagon is behind the new Ten, his eighth album as a leader in 11 years. And, oh, yes: He was just surprised with a MacArthur Genius Grant, an award of $500,000 paid out over five years.

    Moran and The Bandwagon continued their 10-year anniversary celebration with a week at the Village Vanguard, a venue which has been important to their development. WBGO and NPR Music teamed up to present a live broadcast, on air and online, on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Hear the archived recording above.

    As is common in live performances from The Bandwagon, the set used Moran's minidisc player — the unofficial "fourth member" of the group — to spring song clips and other found sounds for the band to improvise over or respond to. An audio collage preceded opener "Another One," an old Mateen composition. "Feedback Pt. 2" featured Jimi Hendrix's feedback from the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. A cut-and-spliced field holler acted as a mantra to "Life Live Time." Trombonist Ben Gerstein's remix of songs from Black Stars, an early Moran album, segued into a live group improvisation. Tunes from Ten comprised much of the balance of the set list, including de- and reconstructed interpretations of pieces from Thelonious Monk, Conlon Nancarrow and Jaki Byard.

    As a pianist, Moran is a distinctive stylist; he combines free improvisation, early jazz techniques and undercurrents of other contemporary music with more mainstream expressions. As a composer and arranger, Moran is an avid conceptualist, apt to deconstruct a jazz standard or assemble new tunes inspired by modern visual art or sampled sounds. Much of that development has come with The Bandwagon as his base; Tarus Mateen is an active, fluid electric bass player — and occasional vocalist, as demonstrated on "Crepuscule With Nellie" — while Nasheet Waits is a versatile modern-day drum hero.

    Jason Moran graduated from the same Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts as many a talented jazzman, then matriculated to Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Jaki Byard, Andrew Hill and Muhal Richard Abrams. While still in college, he was invited into saxophonist Greg Osby's band; a few years later, he started making recordings as a leader. Ten years ago, The Bandwagon made its first recording; though they tour frequently, Moran and his band members also remain busy as sidemen.

    Moran first played the Village Vanguard with Greg Osby's band in the late 1990s. As a leader, Moran has been playing with The Bandwagon in the West Village club for nearly all of the group's 10 years; in 2002, the group recorded a live album at the venue. For this run, he said he would feature songs from Ten, and also dig into some of the extensive repertoire he's accumulated.

    Set List

    • "Another One" (Mateen)
    • "Blessing The Boats" (A.H. Moran)
    • "Feedback Pt. 2" (J. Moran)
    • "Blue Blocks" (J. Moran)
    • "Live Life Time" (J. Moran)
    • "Crepuscule With Nellie" (Monk)
    • "Improvisation on Black Stars [Ben Gerstein Remix]" (Moran/Gerstein)
    • "Study No. 6" (Nancarrow)
    • "To Bob Vatel Of Paris" (Byard)

    Personnel

    • Jason Moran, piano
    • Tarus Mateen, electric bass
    • Nasheet Waits, drums

    Credits

    • Josh Jackson, producer and host
    • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
    • Michael Downes, production assistant
    • Lara Pellegrinelli, moderator