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Concert Review: Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party

Berklee Performance Center, Boston, April 4

Jason Moran and Meshell Ndegeocello in 'Fats Waller Dance Party' presented by the Celebrity Series at Berklee Performance Center, Boston, 4/14
Jason Moran and Meshell Ndegeocello take the stage in 'Fats Waller Dance Party' presented by the Celebrity Series at Berklee Performance Center, Boston, 4/14

The album is due out from Blue Note Records in September. But Jason Moran’s tribute to Fats Waller had its genesis when Harlem Stage commissioned Moran to create a celebration of Waller’s music for a 2011 performance, and he surprised the uptown arts organization with a “dance party” featuring Meshell Ndegeocello, 21st-century modernizations of Waller hits, Moran himself performing much of the set wearing a magnificent papier-mâché mask of Waller’s head … and of course lots of dancing.

Roughly 30 more such performances have followed in other cities, the most recent of them Friday night at the Berklee Performance Center as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston. (Others will follow this month in Milwaukee and Kalamazoo, with more next month in Houston and San Antonio.) Ndegeocello, a late addition to the Boston show’s lineup, opened the set with a hip-hop/neo-soul-oriented update of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” that helped set the tone for the wide-ranging tribute to come.

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