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Get Moving Up in Harlem With Jason Moran

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Sunday May 15, 2011

From The Wall Street Journal

Get Moving Up in Harlem
By: Pia Catton

Almost every art form frets about finding a balance of old and new: repertory versus contemporary, tradition versus technology. The tension can result in misguided productions: The tension can result in overly complex productions: How many (glitchy) computers, for instance, does it take to operate a 19th-century opera?

In jazz, though, it can make for a smashingly good time. And that pretty much describes the Fats Waller Dance Party, which took place at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse this weekend.

The $10 concert was part of the inaugural Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival, a series of events aimed at bringing the city’s jazz audience uptown to celebrate some of the genre’s classic venues.

But this show had a twist. Jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran—a 2010 MacArthur Fellow—didn’t want merely to rehash the Fats Waller songbook. He wanted a contemporary, on-your-feet dance party. So he invited singer Meshell Ndegeocello, known for her sultry R&B vocals and bass guitar, to take the songs in the direction of Afro-beat, techno and house music.

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