By MARY LOU ALESKIE
The tunes were there Little Rootie Tootie, Crepuscule with Nellie,'Round Midnight...the ones we immediately associate with Monk...but the surprise in Jason Moran's tribute IN MY MIND: Monk at Town Hall 1959 was the seamless and compelling story told in the music, recordings and visual images that flowed together to paint a portrait of the man. So beautifully constructed yet so natural in its unfolding, this celebration of a true American hero was made more immediate to us as Jason shared personal connections and inspirations with Monk. The arrangements were beautifully crafted and played by the expanded Moran trio Bandwagon. Clearly a band of virtuosic soloists, the sound had all the richness of a big band without losing any of the spontaneity and responsiveness of a small ensemble. In all, the evening succeeded in concurrently opening our minds, our hearts and our ears, deepening our understanding of the soul and reasoning of a great man who shaped the future of music.
As I sat in the dark toward the rear of Town Hall letting all of this wash over me, I realized that we were in trouble! Not only was this evening more powerful and more profound than I could have ever imagined, it was also MUCH BIGGER than we realized. This was an evening designed to play to you, and then draw you in tight like an embrace that surrounds you. But if you start out in a space so small that you feel as if you are sitting the musicians' laps, the effect is completely lost. Intimacy in experiencing jazz is usually a benefit but this evening is much bigger than a simple jazz concert. And there is no way we can serve this piece or our audience in the small space at the Long Wharf. Back to the drawing board. I will let you know what we come up with as soon as we solve our problem. In the meantime, check out today's New York Times review of the evening....praise much deserved!