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Jason Moran takes liberties with his homage to Thelonious Monk

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Monday March 30, 2015

From The Washington Post

Jason Moran takes liberties with his homage to Thelonious Monk
By Michael J West

Jason Moran’s reverence for jazz history is equaled by his knack for subverting it. That’s easy to forget. So on Saturday night at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, when he took the stage alone to the sound of Thelonious Monk’s 1959 version of “Thelonious” — recorded live at New York’s Town Hall with a 10-piece band — it suggested that reverence was perhaps the top priority of “In My Mind,” Moran’s ultimately brilliant homage to Monk’s Town Hall concert. He sat at the piano, slapped on some headphones and proceeded to improvise on the tune rather, well, reverentially.

The band (eight pieces, accounting for two horns that were undermiked on the 1959 recording) came out shortly, and played an arrangement similar to the Monk record. But suddenly, in Moran’s solo, he stretched way out on the tune, into far-flung harmonic territory that Monk would never have dreamed of. On the next tune, “Friday the 13th,” it was his band who went further out: Tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III played a solo that pushed hard against the rhythm section, letting Moran, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits keep a stately time while Smith bulldozed over it. Soon after, Smith was joined by alto saxophonist Logan Richardson III, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, trombonist Frank Lacy and tubaist Bob Stewart, all playing simultaneous, and completely different, solos.

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