Since his formidable emergence on the music scene in the late ’90s, jazz pianist JASON MORAN has proven more than his brilliance as a performer. The Blue Note Records recording artist has established himself as a risk-taker and innovator of new directions for jazz as a whole. In almost every category that matters – improvisation, composition, group concept, repertoire, technique, and experimentation – Moran, and his group The Bandwagon have challenged the status quo, and earned the reputation as “the future of jazz.”
Moran’s debut recording as a leader, Soundtrack to Human Motion, was released in 1999 to great critical praise. Ben Ratliff of The New York Times named it the best album of the year and the Jazz Journalists Association awarded it “Best Debut Recording.” The following year, Facing Left established The Bandwagon trio with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, and prompted JazzTimes Magazine to declare the album “an instant classic.” Moran augmented the trio for his third Blue Note release, Black Stars, adding avant-garde icon Sam Rivers, who plays saxophone, flute, and piano on the recording. Gary Giddins of the Village Voice exclaimed, “Black Stars is possibly a Blue Note benchmark, definitely one of 2000’s outstanding discs.”
In 2002, Moran released his universally acclaimed solo piano disc Modernistic, prompting the Cork (Ireland) Jazz Festival to award him the 2002 Guinness Rising Star Award. Preeminent jazz critic Gary Giddins proclaimed it “a benchmark achievement and a profound illustration of his capacity to combine classicism and maverick innovation.”
2003’s release The Bandwagon, culled from the trio’s six-day stint at New York’s Village Vanguard, earned the team of Moran-Mateen-Waits a title as “the best new rhythm section in jazz!” according to The New York Times. The Jazz Journalists Association awarded Moran with the “Up-n-Coming Jazz Musician” of 2003. Moran topped the Downbeat Critics Poll in three categories in 2003 and 2004 – Rising Star Jazz Artist, Rising Star Pianist, Rising Star Composer.
In 2005, his blues homage, Same Mother, was released. This same year he received the first ever Playboy Jazz Artist of the Year award. Artist in Residence debuted in 2006 and showcased Moran’s signature brilliance with ambitious undertakings. In the span of one year, Moran accepted and recorded three separate commissions from three pre-eminent and very diverse American arts institutions: The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Dia Art Foundation, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
In 2007, Moran was commissioned to create IN MY MIND: Monk at Town Hall, 1959, the critically-acclaimed multi-media performance investigating Thelonious Monk’s famous recording, Monk at Town Hall. This personal experience was transformed into a feature documentary entitled IN MY MIND by director Gary Hawkins.
Not surprising, the legendary Monk had a pivotal role in influencing young Moran to become a jazz musician. In 1981, at the age of six, the Houston native began studying the piano, but longed to quit until he first heard the sounds of Monk, an experience that established an early role model in Moran’s creative development. Moran later honed his musical education at New York’s Manhattan School of Music.
TEN, Moran’s 10th anniversary album with The Bandwagon, was released on June 22, 2010. The trailblazing trio has proven to be one of the most enduring and creative piano trios in jazz, and TEN represented their most assured and focused album to that date.
A collaboration with Grammy-nominated neo-soul artist Meshell Ndegeocello – a dance party centered on the music of Fats Waller – premiered in 2011, with an album release on Blue Note in 2014: All Rise: An Elegy for Fats Waller.
Music education still plays a central role in Moran’s life. He is on the piano faculty at Manhattan School of Music. He has been lecturer/instructor at Yale University, Dartmouth University, University of Pennsylvania, Eastman School of Music, The Kennedy Center, The New School, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Banff Center for The Arts, Denmark’s Vallekilde Jazz Camp, Skidmore, and Stanford Jazz Workshop.