Innerview: Jason Moran

American pianist and composer Jason Moran will present his new project Fats Waller Dance Party at 19th Jazz Fest Sarajevo 2015, on 4th November.

Innerview by Amra Toska

You managed to bridge the worlds of music and other arts, as well as the past and the present. One of the illustrative examples of that is the recent presentation youhad at the Venice Biennial. What was the idea of this concept?

For the past 10 years, I have collaborated with some great contemporary artists. From performance to video, I consider those relationships integral to my development as a narrative performer. In Venice, I was invited by the curator Okwui Enwezor to make my first mixed media installations. The STAGED pieces are dedicated to the venues that have been the home to great musicians and  their music. Two stages I focused on were the great The Savoy Ballroom of Harlem, and 52nd Street’s  The Three Deuces. Each of these stages had a very specific architecture that I think helps form our understanding of swing music and of bebop. The grand arc of the Savoy to the tight corner of The Three Deuces, the music shifted, as did the architecture. For years, I have focused on the music that was played in these clubs, and now I am focusing on what and who surrounded the music/musicians.  

It seems that your project Fats Waller Dance Party is changing since its start till today, with different musicians etc. How would you describe the process of this project development?

The best way the music has changed is by virtue of performing in front of different audiences. Finding the people who are ready to jump out of their seat to dance, or those who are totally content on listening to the music from their seat. And depending on how we play, and how the audience reacts, that is the bulk of how the music modifies itself. My band and I really do aim to connect to the audience, and get rid of my “cool jazz” attitude. Each room, each member of the audience, each band-mate ready to connect through Fats Waller’s music. It might not sound exactly like the Fats Waller original, but we are going for the energy to make people lose their worries.

Where do you think is the place of jazz music in today’s recording industry?

Jazz always connects to the place in people that is unexplained. Jazz is an abstract and emotional  form of storytelling. When we all understand the language, we find our freedoms within that language. The recording industry is only a tool that allows us to share our story to those that find it. Now most of the industry is online. Jazz has not been a major part of the recording industry for many decades. Long gone are the days of jazz as a popular art form. So, jazz is for those who find it, for the curious listener, the adventurous soul that looks to music to not simply tell them the answers, but to share the questions.  

What are the challenges of crossing musical genres and arts, and where are the lines of separation between the art and the artificial?

For centuries, the arts have been combined, from ritual dances, to operas. The forms of presentation have always collaborated with others. I enjoy looking to combine and erase the separations. If I perform a solo piano recital with another classical pianist, we simply play music at the piano and that is it. If I work with a performance artist to share a meditation about global warming, the idea becomes larger than the stage. And becoming larger than the stage and larger than the evening is what I aim for.

Being an educator yourself, where do you believe the starting points are in the learning process – in the tradition or the contemporary?

The starting points of the learning process come from within the home. In my childhood, I began to understand the ideas around aesthetics both sonically and visually by learning about the objects and recordings within my home. From the Bauhaus chair to the James Brown record. Nowadays, I look at younger artists like Kendrick Lamar, or Death Grips, as artists that have fused styles and methodologies to create something brand new. And this is how the world continues to turn, with artists critically looking at their environment and using their energy to make something new to ask the NEW QUESTION.

How would you announce your concert in Sarajevo?

This is a party, a way to let loose. Fats Waller’s music was helpful for those in America during the Great Depression. I invite people who like to dance, people who like to move.   Nowadays, I think Fats music can continue to rile up the citizen to find their way  out of the funk of everyday mayhem.

Tickets for Jason Moran Fats Waller Dance Party can be bought or reserved at this link.

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