What better way to celebrate Thelonious Monk’s 100th birthday than with Jason Moran, one of his most insistently adventurous musical heirs? A pianist of dazzling technique and ebulliently idiosyncratic vision, Moran premiered his multi-media production In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959 on the 90th anniversary of Monk’s birth.
Co-commissioned by SFJAZZ and three other presenters, the piece also marked the 50th anniversary of Monk’s legendary Town Hall concert, which resulted in the classic live album on Riverside. It would be hard to overstate Monk’s influence on Moran, who was 13 years old and studying classical music when Monk’s solo version of his classic ballad “Round Midnight” sparked the epiphany that led the budding pianist to jazz. In creating In My Mind, Moran probed past the music and public image to explore Monk’s history and creative process. Incorporating live performance, video projections, and recorded samples of Monk rehearsing the Town Hall band, the evening-length piece draws on W. Eugene Smith’s documentary work and Moran’s 2007 pilgrimage to Monk’s ancestral home in North Carolina. More than a musical experience, In My Mind captures a multi-faceted view of a singular genius who is still widely misunderstood.