A Jazzy Jason Moran
I rushed into Bing concert hall slightly late, but still safely on time. I scurried to will call, picked up my ticket, and walked briskly to the entrance to section B. I was taken along the concourse to section D - where I actually was supposed to sit. All the way on the side. Damn.
“Sorry” “excuse me” “pardon” “my bad” repeated as I crossed the legs of old white couples, trying to get to my seat. The very corner of section D. I had arrived.
Finally, I sat. Sweating, but sitting all the same.
Then the music began.
A beat so smooth my heart becomes
Saturated in the sauteeing bass
Slowly, like a sine wave the
Percussion permeates my body
Boom, boom, tss
A pulsation of sound emanates
From the saxophone as every
Air particle is suspended by
The sweet mix of tenor love
That, baby, is jazz
And the analysis followed.
As the band improvised music together, everyone somehow managed to create complementary sounds in each and every second. Out of seemingly nowhere, one band member would take the lead. He would own the power he possessed, even just for a few minutes. Everyone else would back him up, supporting their fellow creator. Saxophone, piano, drums, tuba, trumpet, letting him riff left and right until he was ready to relinquish control. Every time the lead was taken, it was an utterly unselfish move. It was powerful, but selfless. It was for the music. For the waves. For the vibes.
Not for the self.
It was easy to notice the feet of each band member. The drummer and pianist were most prominent with their foot-tronome, if you will. Every foot was moving up and down, keeping the beat, even more so than the bass and the drums -- combined.
The first non-music-related characteristics of the show that struck me was the apparently all white audience. Was this cultural voyeurism? Was I a part of it? Moreover, the layout wasn’t right. Bing concert hall was made for classical music. Pre-determined, pre-described sounds, atmosphere, and response. It was bizarre. This concert seemed out of place. The jazz needed intimacy, it needed movement. It needed us to return the love it was shedding on us all.
It didn’t belong among an audience in a bunch of seats you can’t quite move in; in a space where peeping a sound was outlawed.
Jazz is more than just sound. It’s a feeling. They used the word “Crépuscule” in the artfully constructed commentary displayed above the band on a big screen. That word. Crépuscule. It means twilight. But it’s more than that. It’s the feeling. It’s the feeling of the jazz ballad. Of the tenor sax. Of the slow piano. Crépuscule: that’s one feeling of jazz. Another feeling: “curve the tone,” one more phrase they threw up on the big screen. I’m not sure exactly what that one means, but of course, one can’t always describe feelings with words.
The audience needed to feel jazz. They need to feel curve the tone. They need to feel crépuscule. And I’m not quite sure they did.
Overall the concert was mindblowing. I learned of Thelonious Monk, Jason Moran’s greatest influence and vibed the whole time with the genius mixture of creative expression through sound waves. At the end, the band didn’t just say good bye and leave the stage hanging in darkness and nostalgia for what had just left its airspace. Instead, the band took the waves outside. A portion of the audience followed them out. In the open air, we circled around the band as they played, danced, and had the time of their lives. It was kind of a beautiful moment. It felt good. I felt good. I felt connected. I felt curve the tone. I felt crépuscule. And I most certainly felt the jazz.