Tour Music Review: IN MY MIND: MONK AT TOWN HALL 1959 (Jason Moran and The Big Bandwagon)

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by Tony Frankel on November 16, 2017

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


There are certain experiences involving the arts that stay with you forever. A seamless meld of spiritual and artistic experience, Jason Moran’s tribute piece to Theolonius Monk’s legendary 1959 concert at Town Hall achieved something I rarely witness in the arts: As with a séance, Moran’s octet—rivaling the original recording’s legendary jazz musicians—brought the spirit of the revolutionary, freethinking pianist and composer into The Theatre at Ace Hotel last Friday. And with Monk’s spirit came an artistic milestone and a personal victory for Moran, who helmed this multi-media musical milestone.

Utilizing photos, audio, and video (installation work by David Dempewolf) to give us insight into Monk’s creative process and how he was a muse for Moran, this extraordinary 80-minute evening—which debuted ten years ago with most of the same Big Bandwagon members—was in essence a re-creation of Monk and co-orchestrator Hall Overton’s famous gig and subsequent album release but not an imitation.

Moran and his soulmates followed structure and song, yes, but they celebrated free jazz (and by default American spunk) by trusting their own instincts internally—in their minds—making this CAP UCLA presentation not just a centennial celebration of Monk, but a ceremony of soul and an affirmation of art’s healing power.

photo by Pin Lim/Forest Photography

In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959
Jason Moran | Piano
Wallace Roney II | Trumpet
Immanuel Wilkins | Alto Sax
Walter Smith III | Tenor Sax
Frank Lacy | Trombone
Bob Stewart | Tuba
Tarus Mateen | Bass
Nasheet Waits | Drums
presented by Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA
played November 10, 2017 at The Theatre at Ace Hotel
for info and future dates, visit Jason Moran

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