INTERVIEW: Jason Moran: Jazz Maestro, MacArthur Fellow

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Monday November 08, 2010

From PBS NewsHour

Jason Moran: Jazz Maestro, MacArthur Fellow
By: Jeffrey Brown

Jason Moran is a jazz pianist and composer who, interested in the history of jazz, has investigated and researched the real life experiences of some of America’s most important musical artists before creating inspired new works of his own. He is also one of the winners of this year’s MacArthur Fellowships. His latest recording is called “Ten,” which just came out in June.

I talked to Moran recently by phone in New York:

JEFFREY BROWN: You told one my colleagues here, when we called you the other day, that what you do is take the history of jazz and recontextualize it. Explain to us what that means? What it is you’re doing?

JASON MORAN: Well, say for instance the music of Thelonious Monk, which was really my first great influence on the piano. Recently, maybe in the past four years, to celebrate one of his birthdays I took one of his concerts from 1959, “Monk at Town Hall,” a seminal concert of his, and I decided to rather than just to replay his music and replay the arrangements with the same ensemble, I thought that it would be more interesting to kind of investigate his life more fully and go into kind of his ancestry as well as kind talk about parts of my life.

JEFFREY BROWN: You mean, like research it?

JASON MORAN: Yeah, like research it. As a musician, you know, part of what we do is we really think about what they sound like, what a musician sounds like aesthetically, so what is their sound aesthetic? But for me, almost most importantly, is what is their DNA? You know, where did they come from? Who are the people that raised them? How are they given some of these attitudes about life, about music? And that really for me gives me a lot of answers to how they play their music.

To listen to the interview or read the full transcript click here