jason moran


EARLIER THIS YEAR, LUHRING AUGUSTINE announced the addition of Jason Moran to its roster. Why would a jazz pianist and composer join a tony New York art gallery?

Moran was appointed artistic director for jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in May 2014. He teaches at the New England Conservatory and in 2010 he won a MacArthur fellowship. His credentials are solid. But over the past decade, he has been reaching beyond the jazz world, engaging hip-hop artists and working with his wife, Alice Hall Moran, an opera singer and Broadway actress. Particularly significant are his collaborations with an impressive list of highly regarded visual and performance artists including Stan Douglas, Theaster Gates, Joan Jonas, Simone Leigh, Glenn Ligon, Adam Pendleton, Adrian Piper, Lorna Simpson and Kara Walker.

In 2005, Moran met Jonas, a pioneering performance artist, when she asked him to collaborate with her on a project for Dia:Beacon. “It was an entree into a different world through her and through Adam Pendleton,” he says in the video below. “They brought me into this other space of contemporary performance culture, contemporary aesthetics, all things I had never thought about as a jazz musician.”

“It was an entree into a different world through [Joan Jonas] and through Adam Pendleton. They brought me into this other space of contemporary performance culture, contemporary aesthetics, all things I had never thought about as a jazz musician.” — Jason Moran, Antiphony

For Moran, joining Luhring Augustine (which also represents Ligon) further establishes what has evolved into a groundbreaking cross-disciplinary practice defined by an innovative blending of art, music and performance.

In a conversation published in the June 2009 issue of Interview magazine, Moran and Ligon spoke at length about the intersection of art and jazz, their artistic paths, the role of abstraction and content in each of their practices and their collaboration on Ligon’s film project, “The Death of Tom.”

Since February 2011, Radiclani Clytus, Gregg Conde, Anthony Gannon and Joseph Paul Alvarado have been filming “Grammar,” a documentary about Moran. Earlier this week, ARTINFO spoke to the filmmakers about the lengthy feature which remains in progress, fortified by a Kickstarter campaign. The team recently released “Looks of a Lot” (video below) as evidence of the forthcoming, more comprehensive film’s potential. The video goes behind-the-scenes as Moran fine tunes a collaboration with Theaster Gates for a performance at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Hall in May 2014.

Moran’s new album “All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller” was released on Sept. 23. At the end of September, he curated Very Very Threadgill, a two-day music festival paying tribute to composer Henry Threadgill at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. On Oct. 22, Moran performed with Jonas in Milan, Italy, and will continue to tour with his band The Bandwagon throughout Europe—Zurich; Hannover, Germany; Paris and London—through the end of November.

The selection of videos below offers a glimpse into Moran’s collaborative process and showcases some of his most important artistic performances.


“‘Looks of a Lot’: The Turnaround” from Grammar on Vimeo.


The filmmakers behind the Jason Moran documentary describe this video as a “Grammar” work sample.” A behind-the-scenes look at Moran working with artist Theaster Gates, “Looks of a Lot” was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The performance features Gates, Moran, the Kenwood Academy Jazz Band, and Moran’s band, the Bandwagon (Tarus Mateen, Nasheet Waits, Ken Vandermark and Katie Ernst) and debuted at the CSO on May 20, 2014.


Antiphony: Joan Jonas x Jason Moran from Grammar on Vimeo


Jason Moran met pioneering video and performance artist Joan Jonas in 2005. He says she found his number in the phone book, called him up and asked if he would collaborate with her on “Joan Jonas: The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things,” a performance at Dia:Beacon. He said yes. (Antiphony means a responsive musical utterance.)


Death of Tom – Glenn Ligon from Grammar on Vimeo.


Jason Moran composed the soundtrack for “The Death of Tom,” Glenn Ligon‘s film based on the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The project was supposed to be a re-creation of the last minute of Thomas Edison’s 1903 silent film version. Ligon hired actors and cast himself as Uncle Tom. In the end, the film wasn’t loaded properly in the camera and all of the footage came out blurred, which Moran found to be an inspiring dilemma. Although documentary footage recording the filmmaking process existed, Ligon chose to use the imperfect visuals in the final presentation.


Lorna Simpson, Excerpts from “Chess” Installation, 2013 (three channel video installation, full installation duration 10 min.) Installation at Jeu de Paume, Paris, France | Performance by: composer/musician Jason Moran


BLEED BREAKDOWN from tony gannon on Vimeo.


During the 2012 Whitney Biennial, husband and wife Jason Moran and Alice Hall Moran, an opera singer and Broadway actress, were in residence for five days, performing live from late morning into the evening. “Bleed,” their collaborative series of performances and ideas that bled into one another featured an array fellow artists—Dance Diaspora Collective, Joan Jonas and Kara Walker sang karaoke. The Morans collaborated with Jason’s band the Bandwagon and guitarist Bill Frisell on a performance inspired by the quilters in Gee’s Bend, Ala., and Alice sang Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” backed by Japanese taiko drummers. This New York Times review offers a comprehensive breakdown of the innovative project. CT


Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.