Jason Moran (musician)

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Jason Moran
Background information
Born (1975-01-21) January 21, 1975 (age 39)
Houston, Texas, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupations Pianist, composer
Instruments Piano
Website www.jasonmoran.com

Jason Moran (born January 21, 1975, in Houston, Texas) is a jazz pianist, composer and educator, heavily involved in multimedia art and theatrical installations.[1]

Moran debuted as a band leader with the 1999 album Soundtrack to Human Motion. Since then, he has garnered much critical acclaim and won a number of awards for his playing and compositional skills, which combine elements of post-bop and avant-garde jazz, blues, classical music,[2][3] stride piano,[1][4] hip hop, and spoken word, among others.


Early years[edit]

Moran grew up in Houston, Texas. His parents encouraged his musical and artistic sensibilities at the Houston Symphony, museums and galleries, and a relationship with John T. Biggers. Moran began training at classical piano playing, in Suzuki method, when he was six. The family's records collection, however, varied from Motown, to classical to avant-garde jazz. As a boy he developed a preference to Hip Hop music[5] over the piano until, at the age of 13, he first heard the song "′Round Midnight" by Thelonious Monk at home, and switched his efforts to jazz. Both genres were part of Houston's skateboarding scene in which he was involved.[6][7]

He attended Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts,[8] and then enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with pianist Jaki Byard. While still in college, Moran also received instruction from other avant-garde pianists, including Muhal Richard Abrams and Andrew Hill.

Late 1990s[edit]

In 1997, when Moran was a senior at Manhattan School of Music, he was invited to join the band of saxophonist Greg Osby for a European tour, following a conversation that lingered mostly to older piano jazz, and no audition.[1] Osby liked his playing, and Moran continued to play with Osby's group upon their return to the United States, making his first recorded appearance on Osby's 1997 Blue Note album Further Ado. He would subsequently appear on several other Osby albums.

This led to Moran signing a contract of his own with Blue Note. His debut Soundtrack to Human Motion was released in 1999. Moran was joined on the album by Osby, drummer Eric Harland (a classmate of Moran's at the Manhattan School), vibraphonist Stefon Harris and acoustic bassist Lonnie Plaxico.


Moran's next album, 2000's Facing Left, featured a trio that formed out of Osby's group[1] in his New Directions: Moran, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits. Compositions were some of Moran's and some by Mateen, Duke Ellington, Björk and Byard. The trio, which came to be known as The Bandwagon, was joined by saxophonist and pianist Sam Rivers for their next album, Black Stars, which appeared in 2001.[9]

Moran in 2010

In 2002, Moran released a solo album, Modernistic, and followed it in 2003 with a live trio album, recorded at New York's Village Vanguard, called The Bandwagon: Live at the Village Vanguard.[10] The 2005 album Same Mother, Moran's exploration of the blues, brought guitarist Marvin Sewell into the Bandwagon mix.

Moran's 2006 release, Artist In Residence, included a number of selections from different works commissioned by museums, all of which premiered in 2005: "Milestone," for the Walker Art Center, is centered on the museum's "The Mythic Being: I/You (Her)", a work by Adrian Piper;[5] "The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things," for the Dia Art Foundation, was incorporated into a preexisting installation of that name by artist Joan Jonas;[11] and "RAIN", for Jazz at Lincoln Center, recorded with The Bandwagon and guests Marvin Sewell, Ralph Alessi and Abdou Mboup. It is inspired by ring shouts preformed by African American slaves.[9] Critical reception to Artist in Residence has been arguably colder that to his other releases.[12]

Moran's IN MY MIND, premiered in 2007,[13] is a multimedia presentation inspired by Thelonious Monk's 1959 "large band" concert at The Town Hall in New York City. The February 2009 installation is the subject of a documentary film of the same name.[14]

Moran's "Live: Time" is a 2008 commission of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to complement its exhibition on The Quilts of Gee's Bend.[15] Cane was written for classical wind quintet Imani Winds - among them Moran's college classmate Toyin Spellman.[3] It premiered in October 2008, and appeared[16] in their album Terra Incognita in 2010; it relates to Marie Thérèse Metoyer and Moran's family history in Natchitoches, Louisiana.[17][18]


The album Ten,[19][20][21] released in 2010, marked a ten year interval from the previous Bandwagon-only release, Facing Left. It features "Blue Blocks" off the Philadelphia Museum commission, "RFK in the Land of Apartheid," from an original score to a documentary film of the same name, and "Feedback Pt. 2", commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival, an humage to Jimi Hendrix's performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.[22] "Crepuscule with Nellie," was recorded at the IN MY MIND tour.[23] Ten also contains a composition by Moran and Andrew Hill, and others by Leonard Bernstein, Jaki Byard, Conlon Nancarrow and Bert Williams.[24]

Since 2011 he has been performing the show "Fats Waller dance party", originally commissioned by Harlem Stage. It became the basis of a 2014 release dedicated to Fats Waller and the form of popular entertainment that jazz was in his days.[25] Participants in the fluid roster have included singers Meshell Ndegeocello, in a co-leader position, and Lisa E. Harris, drummer Charles Haynes' ensemble with trumpeter Leron Thomas and trombonist Josh Roseman, saxophonist Steve Lehman and bassist Mark Kelly.

Moran's composition, "Slang", was commissioned for the 2011 Other Minds Festival in San Francisco.[26] In the May 2012 Whitney Biennial, Alicia Hall Moran and Jason curated BLEED, a week-long event in Whitney Museum that involved many artists and artisans, and aimed to expose artistic processes to the point "it has to be scary".[1] Later that year a new performance with Joan Jonas, Reanimation was first staged in dOCUMENTA (13).[27][28][29] In 2013 Moran accompanied, with The Bandwagon and guest Jeff Parker, a skateboarding show in SFJAZZ Center.[30][6]

In April 2014 Moran and Imani Winds premiered Jump Cut Rose, which he wrote for the quintet and a piano,[3] in Hopkins Center for the Arts.[31] In May 30 2014, Looks of A Lot, a theatrical co-production with Theaster Gates on the theme of Chicago artistic history, premiered in the city's Symphony Center, which[32] commissioned it; participants included The Bandwagon, the Kenwood Academy Jazz Band,[33] Ken Vandermark and Katie Ernst, bassist and vocalist.[34] In September 2014 he curated Very Very Threadgill, a two-day festival dedicated to the works of Henry Threadgill, his "all time favorite composer".[35]

Besides his recordings under his own name, Moran has also played and recorded with a range of other musicians including Greg Osby, Charles Lloyd, Cassandra Wilson, Joe Lovano, Don Byron, Steve Coleman, Lee Konitz, Von Freeman, Christian McBride, Ravi Coltrane, Robert Glasper,[36] The Bad Plus,[37] and Bill Frisell.[15][38]

Teaching and organization[edit]

Moran has been on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music since 2010, where he delivers a yearly masterclass, and the Manhattan School of Music, taking over the position occupied by his former teacher, Jaki Byard. In the Kennedy Center he has been the musical adviser for jazz from 2011, and artistic director for jazz from 2014.[39]


He has won a number of awards, including The Jazz Journalists Association's "Up-n-Coming Jazz Musician" award in 2003. The Down Beat critics poll voted him Rising Star Jazz Artist, Rising Star Pianist, and Rising Star Composer for three years straight (2003–05). In 2005, Moran was also named Playboy magazine's first "Jazz Artist of the Year". In 2007, Moran was named a USA Prudential Fellow and granted $50,000 by United States Artists, an arts advocacy foundation dedicated to the support and promotion of America's top living artists. In 2010, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.[40][41] Another full length documentary, Grammar about "jazz through Jason Moran" and genre boundaries, is in the making, after first director Radiclani Clytus had found funding in a 2012 kickstarter campaign.[42]


Moran has twin sons with his wife, Alicia Hall Moran, a mezzo-soprano singer and artistic collaborator.[1] They live in Harlem.[43]


As leader[edit]

  • Soundtrack to Human Motion (1999)
  • Facing Left (2000)
  • Black Stars (2001)
  • Modernistic (2002)
  • The Bandwagon: Live at the Village Vanguard (2003)
  • Same Mother (2005)
  • Artist in Residence (2006)
  • Ten (2010)
  • ALL RISE: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller (2014)

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Russonello, Giovanni (December 10, 2012) "Jason Moran: "To Connect to Every Moment"". JazzTimes.
  2. ^ Kevin Le Gendre. "Jason Moran Ten Review". BBC. 
  3. ^ a b c Brett Campbell (2014-06-04). "Imani Winds and Jason Moran: Minimally Inspired, Major Imprint". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  4. ^ Steve Dollar (2010-06-22). "Jason Moran and the Bandwagon: Ten". 
  5. ^ a b Gehrke, Karl (2006-10-04). "Walker images reside in Jason Moran's jazz". Minnesota Public Radio. 
  6. ^ a b Scheinin, Richard (2013-05-02). "Jason Moran's new trick: skateboarding at SFJazz". San Jose Mercury News. 
  7. ^ "Jason Moran presents Bandwagon & live skateboarding". SFJAZZ. 
  8. ^ "Distinguished HISD Alumni". Houston Independent School District. 
  9. ^ a b Blumenfeld, Larry (2005-05-19). "Jason Moran: Jazz With a Southern Accent". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  10. ^ Jarenwattananon, Patrick. "Jason Moran And The Bandwagon: Live At The Village Vanguard". NPR. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  11. ^ Barnes, Lucinda. "Joan Jonas: The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things". University of Calfornia, Berkeley Art Museum. 
  12. ^ See for example Himes, Geoffrey (2007-02-23). "JASON MORAN "Artist in Residence" Blue Note". Washington Post. 
  13. ^ Virginia A. Schaefer. "Jason Moran, “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959”". JazzTimes. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  14. ^ Ryel-Lindsey, Arthur (2010-04-11). "Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2010: In My Mind (Gary Hawkins)". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  15. ^ a b "Art After 5 Premieres a New Composition by Jazz Pianist Jason Moran Inspired by the Quilts of Gee's Bend". Philadelphia Museum of Art. 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  16. ^ Terra Incognita at AllMusic
  17. ^ Joao Marcos Coelho. "Imani Winds / Excellence marks the concert of American quintet in festival.". O Estado de S. Paulo. Retrieved October 21, 2014 – via ImaniWinds.com (translated). 
  18. ^ Mike Telin. "Imani Winds: Tuesday Musical Series...". Cleveland Classical. Retrieved October 21, 2014 – via ImaniWinds.com. 
  19. ^ John Fordham (2010-08-19). "Jason Moran: Ten | CD review | Music". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  20. ^ "Album review: Jason Moran's 'Ten' | Pop & Hiss | Los Angeles Times". Latimesblogs.latimes.com. 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  21. ^ "Jason Moran: Ten Blue Note, CD review". London: Telegraph. 2010-08-20. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  22. ^ Ron Wynn (September 2010). "Jazz Reviews: TenJason Moran and the Bandwagon". JazzTimes. 
  23. ^ David Adler (2010-06-12). "Jason Moran: Ten (2010)". Allaboutjazz.com. 
  24. ^ Kevin Whitehead (2010-06-10). "Jason Moran, 'Ten' years later". NPR. 
  25. ^ Beuttler, Bill (2014-04-07). "Concert Review: Jason Moran's Fats Waller Dance Party". JazzTimes. 
  26. ^ "Other Minds Festival: OM 16: Panel Discussion & Concert 3". Other Minds/radiOM. 2011. 
  27. ^ "dOCUMENTA (13)". 
  28. ^ ""Reanimation" Jason Moran with Joan Jonas". Luhring Augustine. 
  29. ^ Gillian Young (2013-11-22). "Glacial Pace: Joan Jonas’s “Reanimation”". Art in America. 
  30. ^ Scheinin, Richard (2013-05-05). "Review: Jason Moran's jazz/skateboarding duet". San Jose Mercury News. 
  31. ^ "Imani Winds, Jason Moran to debut original piece at the Hop". The Dartmouth. 2014-04-02. 
  32. ^ Paul Pennington (2013-08-09). "Jason Moran: The Modern Maestro". iRock Jazz. 
  33. ^ Howard Reich (2014-10-01). "Kenwood's Journey". Chicago Tribune. 
  34. ^ Alex Marianyi. "Jason Moran Live with Theaster Gates - 5/30/2014". nextbop.com. 
  35. ^ Nate Chinen (2014-09-28). "Henry Threadgill Festival at Harlem Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2014. 
  36. ^ For Glasper see: Micallef, Ken (2014-01-10). "Glasper, Moran Stride into the Spotlight at Winter Jazzfest Blue Note Tribute". Down Beat. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  37. ^ "Video: Full Concerts From Jason Moran, The Bad Plus, More". A Blog Supreme. NPR. 2010-11-30. 
  38. ^ Zora Wrightson, Erica (2010-04-14). "Live review: Bill Frisell, Jason Moran and Kenny Wollesen at Largo". LA Weekly. 
  39. ^ Pressley, Nelson (2014-05-06). "Kennedy Center upgrading Jason Moran to artistic director for jazz with 3-year renewal". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  40. ^ "Jason Moran - MacArthur Foundation". MacArthur Foundation. 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  41. ^ Jarenwattananon, Patrick (2010-09-28). "Jason Moran Named MacArthur Fellow : A Blog Supreme". NPR. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  42. ^ "Grammar". 
  43. ^ Giovanni Russonello (2014-09-15). "Jason Moran, Meshell Ndegeocello find their own way to honor Fats Waller". The Washington Post. 
  44. ^ John Fordham (2013-07-25). "Trio 3 + Jason Moran: Refraction – Breakin' Glass – review". The Guardian. 

External links[edit]