Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jason Moran named Kennedy Center’s artistic adviser for jazz

By Jess Righthand, Published: November 29

Jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran was named Tuesday as the Kennedy Center’s artistic adviser for jazz. Moran will be only the second person to hold the position, following a 16-year stint by one of his mentors, the iconic pianist and educator Billy Taylor, who served from 1994 until his death last December.

“I have a lot of ideas that I think will fit well with the Kennedy Center, so this is very exciting,” Moran says. 

The 36-year-old pianist inherits a robust program, thanks in large part to his predecessor. Taylor — who started at the Kennedy Center as a seasoned musician, educator and broadcaster in his early 70s — shepherded the jazz program from several scattered concerts each year to a constant bounty of shows, master classes, lectures, workshops and interviews on his beloved radio show, “Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center.” 

Moran “is someone that is firmly rooted in the tradition of the music,” says Kevin Struthers, the Kennedy Center’s director of jazz programming, who will work with Moran over his three-year appointment to curate artists for concerts and jazz education. “As one of the foremost contemporary artists on the scene, I think he’ll bring a more contemporary aspect to the music, and to our programming, without disrespecting the past but still looking ahead to where the music is going.”

One of Moran’s primary tasks will be to strike that at-times elusive balance between honoring jazz tradition and pushing innovation. Moran, who has played with the likes of Greg Osby, Joe Lovano, Lee Konitz, Christian McBride and Cassandra Wilson, is generally seen as a musical innovator who blends the traditions of blues and jazz with more modern elements of funk, rock and hip-hop. He has received several “Rising Star” awards from Downbeat magazine’s critics polls, as well as a 2010 MacArthur fellowship, and has released eight albums, both solo and with his group, the Bandwagon. He has become a prolific collaborator, particularly in the past five years, forging dialogue between jazz and the visual arts, dance, documentary film and other musical traditions. 

Despite his reputation as a musician who likes to shake things up, Moran has firsthand knowledge of the legacy he has been tapped to carry on. Taylor was a mentor to Moran; the two met when Taylor gave a master class at Moran’s Houston high school. Taylor followed the younger pianist’s budding career, turning him on to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Billy Taylor Jazz Residency program (which he completed in 2006) and engaging him in discussions about the future of jazz.
Some of Moran’s most recent projects were influenced by Taylor. “I remember he said this wonderful thing. Well, he said lots of wonderful things. But he said, ‘Okay, Jason, can people dance to your music?’ ” Moran says this served as the impetus for his Fats Waller Dance Party, held at New York’s Harlem Stage Gatehouse in May, at which he and Meshell Ndegeocello layered quintessential jazz standards with danceable grooves and riffs. 

As the artistic adviser for jazz, Moran hopes to expand the accessibility that was so important to Taylor, in part by emphasizing that music, and especially jazz, can be fun.

“ ‘Fun’ is not a very intellectual term,” he says, “but I think people like good music, people enjoy good drinks and good food, people like to move, I think people like to laugh. So, I’m really looking for ways in which, through intellectual and investigative music, we can get these feelings to occur.”
As a composer, Moran hopes to write music for the artistic bodies at the Kennedy Center. More jazz might be integrated into the center’s large-scale, international festivals, National Symphony Orchestra concerts and even dance productions.

“In a place like the Kennedy Center, you have these wonderful outlets to actually write for if you’d like to,” Moran says. “For me, it’s a way to bring context to jazz.” 

Moran says he will strive to infuse jazz with a balance of diasporic and local offerings, a mix he hopes will cater to D.C. tastes.

“D.C. has its own vibe. It’s not like New York, it’s not like Philly, it’s not like San Francisco,” he says. “It’s a totally different kind of place. So, I’ll also be trying to make sure that these things fit with something that the D.C. people are looking for. And, hopefully, it will be so interesting that the people from Philly and New York say, ‘Oh, I have to go down to D.C. because this is not happening anywhere else.’ ”

Hear Jason Moran explain Thelonious Monk and play Monk’s "Crepuscule with Nellie"
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John Cavanagh and Chuck Collins Occupying DC.
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I visited the Montgomery County Detention Center in Clarksburg, Maryland this morning.  Twice a year I work with Mier Wolf (The Writer's Center) in judging a poetry contest for the men and women incarcerated at this facility. I also invite a guest poet to join me when we give out the awards. The guest poets share their poems and talk about the writing life. Poets Joe Ross, Naomi Ayala, Dwayne Betts are some of the guest poets who have made this program a success. Today it was Sarah Browning's turn. She was wonderful. She read poems from her book Whiskey in the Garden of Eden and talked about the upcoming Split This Rock Poetry Festival (March 22025, 2012). Many thanks to Andrea Castrogiovanni the librarian at the detention center that makes this all possible. I was also reminded once again how one life touches another - before I left this morning one of the inmates reminded me that we had met back in 1997. At that time I was doing a program at the Seven Locks Detention Center in Maryland and he was a prisoner there. A young woman asked me if I was the author of First Light, she had been reading the book in her cell. She was so happy when I told her yes. I was happy too.
Daily Buddhist Wisdom

Eventually we will find (mostly in retrospect, of course) that we can be very grateful to those people who have made life most difficult for us.
- Ayya Khema, "When the Iron Eagle Flies"

Celebrate the Season with Cave Canem!

Join Cave Canem as we wrap up the fall season with festive events in Baltimore, Pittsburgh & New York.
December 4, 2 pm
Enoch Pratt Free Library
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD
New Works: Cave Canem Poets Read
2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize winner Iain Haley Pollock and Cave Canem fellows Derrick Weston Brown, Evie Shockley & Khadijah Queen share work from their recently published volumes of poetry.
December 7, 7 - 9 pm
The University Club
123 University Place
Pittsburgh, PA
The Undertaker's Daughter: A Book Launch
Cave Canem co-founder Toi Derricotte debuts her new book, hailed by Terrance Hayes as "her most stirring and innovative work yet." Book signing and reception to follow. Sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Office of Public Affairs.
December 8, 6:30 pm
20 Jay Street
Reading: 7th Floor
Reception: Suite 310-A
DUMBO, Brooklyn
Happy Birthday, Alison!
Celebrating Alison Meyers' 60th

Join Alison Meyers, Cave Canem's executive director, for poetry, music, food, drink & surprises. Cave Canem staff Hafizah Geter, Myrna Greenfield & Camille Rankine will join Alison to kick off the evening with a reading at the New York Foundation for the Arts, followed by festivities in Cave Canem's loft with DJ Andrey Radovski. Admission in multiples of six, $6-$60, to benefit Cave Canem.

CAVE CANEM FOUNDATION, INC. • • 718.858.0000
20 Jay Street, Suite 310-A, Brooklyn, NY 11201
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Come nude to me
so that I may see first
light. Let me look over
your horizon and discover
my hands touching nothing
but you.

  - E. Ethelbert Miller

MLK Library Bookstore Closing - Books $1
BooksPlus, The Library Bookstore, located in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, will close permanently on Friday, Dec. 30. All books are $1 in December.
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 -- 11:54 AM EST

Herman Cain Is Reassessing His Bid for Republican Presidential Nomination, an 
Aide Says

Herman Cain told members of his campaign staff on Tuesday that he was 
reassessing whether to proceed with his bid for the Republican presidential 
nomination, an aide confirmed, a day after an Atlanta woman disclosed details of 
what she said was a 13-year affair with him.

In a morning conference call with his advisers, Mr. Cain said that he would make 
a decision in the coming days about whether to stay in the presidential race 
after his campaign was rocked by another round of allegations about his sexual 
So the N.B.A. will be back soon and there will be new commercials. Look for Kevin Durant to become the face of the league. Kobe has to be replaced and James and Wade have to win something. No way Dallas will repeat. What players will be in the best shape?  What stars will be injured and sitting on the bench after a few games? But the key thing to monitor is to watch what happens to those players that were involved in the contract talks. Does Fisher disappear from the Lakers? Owners often play hardball when everyone is back to cheering. No N.B.A. owner wants to teach Frederick Douglass how to read.
“Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread.”
Pablo Neruda
My daughter sent this to me today:

OPINION   | November 29, 2011
Op-Ed Columnist:  The Life Reports II
Positive lessons from the senior set continue to pour in. Here are a few takeaways.

Why can't I write something that would awake the dead?

     - Patti Smith

She rises from the bed

walks across the room
her ass news and picture perfect.
The candidate with the stolen erection
thinks about the oath he will never take.
He rests on his back waiting for her return.
Why is most sex never this good?
When will love vote for a mistress?

  - E. Ethelbert Miller


Tricycle Daily Dharma November 29, 2011

Let Your Practice Come Alive

We can choose to get lost in our personal terror, but the fact remains that we are the only ones who can heal fear, anger, and pain by the way we use our minds. The ten thousand things, all the barriers, all the peace and the joy of this world, are nothing but the self. The question is, how do we understand it? Now more than ever we need to trust ourselves and let the years we have put into our practice come alive.
– John Daido Loori, "Between Two Mountains"
Read the entire article in the Tricycle Wisdom Collection

Monday, November 28, 2011


Treve de blues
- Leon Damas

Compassion is my art
-Grace A. Ali

 God makes stars. It's up to producers to find them
- Samuel Goldwyn

 AN INTERVIEW WITH THE POET JOE ROSS.  Ross will be coordinating a new poetry series at the Takoma Park Library (416 Cedar Street, NW in DC) starting December 6th at 7pm.  E-Notes wanted to ask him a few questions.


Q. Next month you'll be coordinating and hosting a new poetry series (Poetry on Cedar Street) at the Takoma Park Library. Why another series in the DC area?

I have always loved my local library and I wanted to do something that would be rooted in a local, neighborhood library. A poetry reading series is something I can do. I’m fortunate to be part of the vibrant literary community in Washington, D.C. and that enables me to gather friends who are poets to read their work.

Wherever I’ve lived, the local library has been a place for community: learning, and connecting. The Pomona Public Library offered me those gifts as a kid in California and I thought those gifts could be useful here. The Takoma DC library sits right in the middle of a neighborhood so it seems like a good place to bring poetry. Many people won’t get to Busboys & Poets or to the universities or coffee houses but they might come to their local library and they might bring their children. It just seems like a good way to get more poetry to more people.
Q, How difficult is it to coordinate a series?  How do you find  the poets?

POETRY on CEDAR STREET will only be a seasonal reading series, at the moment. That means only four readings a year. So I don’t think that will be difficult to coordinate. The librarians at the Takoma DC Library have been helpful and gracious so I don’t foresee problems. For the moment, the poets will be people I know. I’d like to build up a bit of a following for the series, get a core, regular audience.

As for finding the poets, initially at least, they will be people I know, like you. There are many fine poets in this area and some of them don’t do lots of readings. So I’ll tap into folks I know first, then we’ll see.

Q. What type of support will the public library be providing you with?  Who do you see as your audience?

The library only provides the space, friendliness, and some publicity help. They will publicize the series on their various list serves. The space they offer is their main contribution. The Takoma DC Library has a beautiful fireplace in its back wall and it’s a terrific setting for a poetry reading. We’ll gather chairs back in that portion of the library and the poet will read from there.

I’d love to see people who live near the library come to the readings. I know poetry is not everyone’s interest but I hope the local neighbors, who are interested in the library, will come out for the poetry. I also think the audience will be members of the DC poetry community and those who love poetry, from around the city. It’s a way to bring people from other parts of the region to the Takoma DC neighborhood. The library is just a quick two-block walk from the Takoma Metro Station so it’s very accessible from other parts of the area.

Q. Do you have a criteria as to the type of poets you will be inviting?   Will you be presenting any spoken word artists?

I would like to invite a diverse group of poets, especially in terms of age. But this will take shape slowly. I think it would be good to occasionally present spoken word artists as they are certainly part of the poetry landscape. Right now, I’m still finalizing the second poet! But my hope is to have a group of poets each year who write and look like poetry in America.

Q. Will you be helping the Takoma Park Library develop their poetry section?

That’s a terrific idea and I will certainly talk with the librarian, Rachel Meit, about this. Because this is a branch library, it’s part of the larger D.C. Public Library system so they share poetry books with all the other branches. I have requested specific poetry books, for myself, and they show up at Takoma within just a few days. But as to their specific collection, I’d like to work with Rachel on that. I think it would be good to beef up the library’s collection of books by poets who are reading as soon as they are scheduled. I’m sure the library staff would be open to that.

Joe Ross new book of poems, Meeting Bone Man will be published in March/April 2012. Watch for more information about it at