Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, and the Bandwagon


I had no idea what was in store for me when the three extremely well dressed men walked out onto the stage and took their seats; the first at a piano (Jason Moran), the second with a bass (Tarus Mateen) and the third at a drum set (Nasheet Waits).  The pianist took up the microphone and announced “we don’t read music…” then chuckled and launched into the first song.  For an hour and a half, the Weis Center for the Performing Arts was filled with Jason Moran and The Bandwagon’s smooth jazz.

Traditional songs were supplemented with experimental pieces like “Life Live Time” and Billie Holiday’s “Big Stuff” and a creative piece including Thelonious Monk.  Jason Moran and the Bandwagon has been regarded as “the future of jazz” and I now understand that characterization.  Aside from his relaxed stage presence and overall mastery of the piano, Moran has this obvious hunger for the unique; he wants to be the one taking the risks and breaking down the walls, which I wholly appreciate and respect.


“Life Live Time” was my favorite piece of the show.  It featured a pre-recorded woman’s voice singing “Life Live Time” and was complemented by delicate Moran’s whistling and piano, drum and bass accompaniment.  As the song was ending, Moran took up the microphone once again and spoke into it “Life live time, life live time, life live time; you only get one life to live so don’t waste time.”  This was my favorite piece of the show because it showed how malleable jazz -- and music in general -- is.


The piece including Thelonious Monk was only a piece that completely unfettered creativity could muster.  Moran told a story of how Thelonious was explaining how he wanted his show to play out while holding the microphone by the wire so it reached his feet, at one point, Thelonious did a bit of a dance, the sound of which was recorded.   Moran played this dance on a loop as a backing track to his piece.


This was an incredible experience, I walked away feeling inspired and fulfilled.  Jason Moran and the Bandwagon live up to all the hype that is provided to them and more.  If you would like to listen to them, most of the songs they played are included in this link, even my favorite, the unreleased “Life Live Time.”

Thank you to the Weis Center for the Performing Arts and the Music Department’s Jazz at Bucknell Series, especially Barry Long, for bringing this incredible group to Bucknell.