Jason Moran Presents “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959”
As it has demonstrated with such presentations as Big Band Monk, its memorable 1986 reunion of musicians from Thelonious Monk’s rare big band concerts at Town Hall and Carnegie Hall, the Chicago Jazz Festival has been devoted to keeping the memory of the genius pianist-composer alive. And no contemporary artist is more committed to Monk’s legacy than Jason Moran, as witness “In My Mind,” his revealing look back at the 1959 Town Hall show. So what could be more appropriate for the festival, in celebrating Monk’s centennial, than to bring to town an updated and upgraded staging of “In My Mind,” presented a decade ago at Symphony Center?
As Chicagoans know from a pair of more recent events, Moran’s 2013 Fats Waller Dance Party in Millennium Park and his 2014 collaboration with visual artist Theaster Gates at Symphony Center, he is one of jazz’s leading conceptualists in addition to being one of its finest living pianists. Far from a conventional tribute, “In My Mind” offers fresh octet arrangements of the Monk classics performed at Town Hall, including “Little Rootie Tootie” and “Thelonious,” a video projection by David Dempewolf, still images of Monk rehearsing for the concert and sound clips of him talking about his music.
Moran first heard Monk’s music when he was 13. “He is the reason I play piano,” said the Houston native. “In My Mind” weaves together biographical material about Moran and his idol to shed light on the influence Monk has had on his life as well as his music, which tonight will be performed by bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits of Moran’s superb Bandwagon trio; trumpeter Ralph Alessi; tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III; altoist Logan Richardson; trombonist Frank Lacy, and tuba player Bob Stewart. In lieu of candles, feel free to light up your cell phones and sing it out loud: Happy 100th, Monk!