logo

Jason Moran
"In My Mind:
Monk at Town Hall 1959"


Symphony Center
Chicago, IL
Nov. 16, 2007
Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk
Jason Moran

Jason Moran

Story by Brad Walseth

As one of the most inventive young pianists of his generation, Jason Moran is perhaps the foremost heir to the lineage of the great Thelonious Monk. Not that he sounds like Monk ó no one could except the original ó but he comes closest to reaching the spirit that infused Monk's eclectic compositional style. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when Moran reveals that hearing "Round Midnight" as a youth was an important component in his growth as an artist during one of the voice clips that are interspersed throughout Moranís intriguing new work, "In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959," which was performed at Chicago Symphony Center last Friday Nov. 16.

Moran has previously performed the actual arrangements of Monkís legendary concert with a 10-piece band, but he felt Monkís 90th birthday year deserved something more to commemorate the occasion and so a reinvention/multimedia performance was commissioned. Strikingly reworked versions of Monk classics like "Monk's Dream" and "Crepuscule With Nellie" were augmented by video, still photography from W. Eugene Smith and actual recorded segments featuring Monk speaking during rehearsals. The result is a penetrating look into the mind of the genius, while also revealing Moranís inner thoughts as well.

Starting with Moran wearing headphones on piano, "jamming" with the prerecorded Monk big band, the concert was, like much of Moranís work, filled with jarring segues and unexpected explorations. The members of the band played very well, with trumpeter Ralph Alessi and tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III taking exemplary solos. Bob Stewart on tuba, Isaac Smith on trombone and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson III also added fine work, while Moran's "Bandwagon" rhythm section of bassist Tarus Mateen and Nasheet Waits held down the bottom end with energy.

This music was admittedly knotty, as one would expect from the combination of Monk and Moran, and lulled somewhat about 2/3rds through, testing the audience somewhat, while Waitís preference for playing anything but the expected beat tends to be wearing on the listener in extended doses, but Moran sparkled throughout, and the highlights were memorable.

Conceived as a meditation on the man, his music, as well as the social events that contributed to the making of a genius, one of the most striking moments occurred when footage from Monk's family home in North Carolina was shown. As the dialogue explained, Monkís grandfather was a slave on this plantation. The effect of this revelation is startling and resonant.


Check out Jason Moran's homepage

Check out other recent concerts reviews and photos

Return to jazzchicago home

Contact Brad Walseth and JazzChicago.net at bwalseth60@aol.com

Return to jazzchicago home