Jason Moran’s approach to the role of artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center has been suspiciously similar to his approach to the role of pianist, composer and bandleader: to mediate a dialogue between the music’s history and its cutting-edge present. That has often meant bringing in the elder statesmen along with the rising young players, or exploratory projects like Moran’s own Fats Waller Dance Party. But it also means putting multiple generations onstage together in celebration of jazz immortals. In October, that meant two centennial celebrations—for Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie—in a two-week span.
Moran was an active participant in the October 8 Monk centennial, clearly the more personal of the two for him. “Can we all rise and have another round of applause for the supreme being, Thelonious Monk?” he asked the audience in the Concert Hall, after its ovation for his entrance had died down. Overhead was projected a picture of 16-year-old Moran in a Monk t-shirt, with Monk album covers plastered to his wall.