During an afternoon sound check at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, pianist Jason Moran was asked if he could play “Auld Lang Syne” as a promotion for NPR. He didn’t quite remember the melody and wanted someone to hum it for him.
In the next three minutes, as he sat at the piano, Moran wove improvised beauty, transforming the familiar New Year’s Eve war horse into a gentle jazz hymn. He created new harmonies, shifted to a different key, added a touch of abstraction without departing from the song’s melancholy melody.
It was a subtle demonstration of how the 36-year-old Moran is ringing in a new era of jazz.
He is perhaps the country’s most influential jazz musician under 40. He’s got plenty of street cred on the music scene, but he is quickly gaining institutional validity as well, most notably with last year’s award of a $500,000 “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. In the latest confirmation of Moran’s rising cultural stature, the Kennedy Center last month named him its new artistic adviser for jazz.
Read the entire story from today’s Washington Post, here.