Jason Moran:
Bathing the Room with Blues

On View September 10, 2021 to January 30, 2022

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About the Exhibition 

For his solo exhibition at the MCA Denver, renowned artist and musician Jason Moran will present a gathering of artworks that celebrates space and creative expression in jazz history, as well as the importance of music and live performance as vital forces in Black culture and American life. Through a range of media, Moran highlights his fascination with the physical environments where music is born and how the residue of music-making can be captured.

Conceived during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bathing the Room with Blues debuts a series of new works on paper made during the past year. These works were created by Moran placing a sheet of Japanese Gampi paper on a piano and then using saturated pigment to track the “attack” of his fingers upon the keys. The results are vibrant traces of a performance that build upon his recurring quest to explore the “residues” of music-making. The color blue, which dominates many of these works on paper, alludes to the rich migratory history of Blues music, the sentiment of melancholy found in “blue notes,” and the diaspora of traditions brought to the United States from the African continent (in North Africa, for example, blue is associated with healing). The intensity of the Black Lives Matter protests from the last year further informs these works, as the blue marks at times resemble marchers moving in formation across the page. The marks also represent the how the musical phrases in a solo gather.   

These works on paper will be complemented by the presentation of Moran’s STAGED: Three Deuces, 2015. Inspired by the legendary club Three Deuces, located in midtown Manhattan, this sculpture pays homage to the history of bebop jazz in the 1940s and the legendary musicians like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker (aka Bird), and Max Roach who played out of the corner of this small jazz space. STAGED: Three Deuces features a Steinway Spirio player piano that will perform songs created by Moran.

Acknowledging the layered history of jazz in the United States, and the destructive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional facets of this exhibition will explore the history of jazz in Denver, and the closure of influential jazz spaces over the last year, both in this city and nationally. Together with Ron Miles, an internationally renowned composer and trumpet and cornet player based in Denver, Moran will develop a series of performances that highlight the jazz community of this region. 

Curated by
Miranda Lash, Ellen Bruss Senior Curator at the MCA Denver

On view from
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Jason Moran: Bathing the Room with the Blues is generously supported by Tina A. Walls. 

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[Image description: Photo of Jason Moran standing against a white background. He is wearing a gray suit, white collared shirt, and black tie.]
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Jazz pianist, composer, and performance artist Jason Moran was born in Houston, TX in 1975 and earned a degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Jaki Byard. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2010 and is the Artistic Director for Jazz at The Kennedy Center. Moran currently teaches at the New England Conservatory.

Moran is deeply invested in reassessing and complicating the relationship between music and language, and his extensive efforts in composition, improvisation, and performance are all geared towards challenging the status quo while respecting the accomplishments of his predecessors. His activity stretches beyond the many recordings and performances with masters of the form including Charles Lloyd, Bill Frisell, and the late Sam Rivers, and his work with his trio The Bandwagon (with drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen) has resulted in a profound discography for Blue Note Records. The scope of Moran’s partnerships and music-making with venerated and iconic visual artists is extensive. He has collaborated with such major figures as Adrian Piper, Joan Jonas, Glenn Ligon, Stan Douglas, Adam Pendleton, Lorna Simpson, and Kara Walker; commissioning institutions of Moran’s work include the Walker Art Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Dia Art Foundation, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Harlem Stage, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.


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Transcript:

Hi, this is Jason Moran. I chose the title "Bathing the Room with Blues" because I think music and the blues especially has a way of washing over the listener, a way of healing the listener, a way of affirming the listener's emotions, emotional state, and outlook on life. The blues have often been called the backbone of American music, and I believe that music that I play comes from that root source of the blues and the blues has washed many rooms across the country and across the world. And in an exhibition where the color blue is the predominant color in the exhibition, I thought this would be a good title.


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Transcripción:

Esta es una traducción al español de las palabras de Jason Moran. Escogí el título “Bañando el cuarto con los blues” porque creo que la música y especialmente los blues tienen una manera de verterse sobre el escucha, una manera de sanar al escucha, una manera de afirmar las emociones del escucha, su estado emocional, su visión de la vida. Los blues han sido comúnmente llamados la espina dorsal de la música estadounidense, y creo que la música que yo toco viene de esa raíz del blues y el blues ha bañado muchos cuartos a lo largo del país y del mundo. Y en esta exposición en donde el color azul es color predominante, pensé que sería un buen título.