Jason Moran big band at the Bath Festival

A passing comment (whilst he was in queue) and a review on his excellent site byCharley has prompted me to start my online thoughts with Jason Moran. He brought what can only be described as a show to the UK and took in the Bath Festival on the tour. This is some weeks ago now, May 24th was when they touched down in Bath.

It was billed as a performance ‘in response to’;’celebration of’;’inspired by’ Thelonius Monk’s famous Town Hall Concert. There were one or two of Monk’s tunes in the set, but the majority were Jason Moran’s compositions. As striking as the playing of the band (Jason Moran’s regular trio with a very hot British sax section) was the blending and interweaving of their playing with film and audio. It was this latter element which has left me with a really lasting impression. There were several passages of film, or audio which suddenly took me at least, inside what the band were doing and made it feel like something deeply personal was being shared with us . I won’t describe them all but here’s one: the band leave the stage. It darkens. All you can see is a projection of what looks like 50’s Bakelite TV Screen with ‘snow’ filling the screen. Is that a shadowy figure in the snow? We become aware of a conversation. Its Monk discussing his arrangement of Little Rootie Tootie with the producer. This goes on for some time. Then a strange banging starts. After a moment we realise its Monk tap dancing (where did they find this?) Jason Moran has creot back on stage and suddenly he starts playing… Little Rootie Tootie. It fits perfectly over the rythm Monk is dancing out, including the stops, hits fills and so on. Jason is duetting with Monk. Before our eyes.. and ears

The band? Well they are all extraordinary players and prodigious improvisers. The general sound was very high octane abstract post-bop stuff-they even ended up there when starting out with a ballad. Had this been all there was to the gig I, like Charlie would have probably been slightly disappointed and left wishing for a bit more ‘light and shade’. But, and its a huge but, there was much more and I was moved. No disappointment there.

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