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Flynn Center jumps on Jason Moran's Bandwagon

BURLINGTON -- "Umm." That's how pianist-composer Jason Moran describes himself and his playing in one word. Moran underscores the double meaning of the sound. Not only does "Umm" express appreciation, Moran says, it also "shows a state of thinking: What if I tried that?" Moran's innovative music pleases and provokes. Inspired by African-American conceptual artist Adrian Piper's 1974 photo/text piece, "The Mythic Being: I/You (Her)," Moran and his trio, The Bandwagon, entertained and stimulated the Flynn MainStage audience on Jan. 19. "It is only because of the defects in my personality that I can finally say this to you." So begins Adrian Piper's ten-part, comic-like panel. Bravely, Moran and The Bandwagon speak to the audience with their own experimental combination of music and theater. In the first set, for example, they begin Albert King's 1972 ballad "I'll Play the Blues For You" as straight as an arrow. Then, as smugly secure as Adrian Piper, they expand and improvise, drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen unafraid to embellish the classic with their own inventiveness. Typical of the second set is Moran's playful coloring of Carl Maria von Weber's "Cradle Song." He learned the piece, Suzuki-style, when he was eight, and he remembers his mother feverishly taking notes while he played. To recreate the boyhood scene, he plays the tune with the recorded sound of pencil loudly scratching on paper in the background. Moran and The Bandwagon, with guitarist Marvin Sewell (when will the "trio" become a "quartet"?), take pride in creatively demolishing the walls that often divide artist and audience. Where Adrian Piper's Mythic Being might rely on "personal flaws" to break down barriers, Moran and The Bandwagon have confidence in their consummate musical skills. YouTube.com has an interesting 2-minute video in which the 33-year-old Moran provides advice to young jazz musicians. "Study yourself," he predictably emphasizes. "Is jazz dead?" Moran asked at one point during his Flynn performance, pointing out that the question had been asked even when John Coltrane was alive. Looking out at an open and appreciative audience, he proclaimed jazz to be quite alive in Burlington. To Moran's conclusion, one can only add an emphatic "Umm-hmm!"

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