Pianist Jason Moran (left) and bassist Christian McBride performed recently at the Kennedy Center.
Pianist Jason Moran (left) and bassist Christian McBride performed recently at the Kennedy Center.

Pianist Jason Moran attracts the best in jazz. The Kennedy Center’s Artistic Director for Jazz was recently in concert with bassist Christian McBride. Their performance gave the audience a beautiful blend of the musicians’ compositions, along with a few jazz classics like “Blue Monk” and “Evidence” by Thelonious Monk.

Moran’s duo performances have been successful concerts with other artists. Earlier this year, he collaborated with Robert Glasper for a piano duo concert. 

What the Kennedy Center audience experienced with Moran, 47 and McBride, 50, were two composers and jazz educators continuing what they began when touring together in 2021. Throughout the set, Moran and McBride balanced performing by enlightening the audience about the composers and musicians they spotlighted. The set also included Wes Montgomery’s “Four on Six.”

“He was one of the great guitar gods but somehow is still unsung,” McBride said about Montgomery.

Both Moran and McBride did solo, mostly improvised short sets. Moran did everything on his piano. He was soft and gentle with the keys, then moved to a level of rapidity with great intent. It was something I remember seeing from the late jazz pianist and composer McCoy Tyner.

McBride, playing the double bass, always comes across as performing with pure joy. Adding a few bars of “Fly Me to the Moon” during his improvisation portion felt happy. He last performed at the Kennedy Center in February to present his civil rights suite, “The Movement Revisited.”

The duo played Moran’s pandemic-influenced composition “Black is a Rainbow,” inspired by Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon.” They continued with pianist and composer Geri Allen’s “Feed the Fire.” For an encore, the duo performed “What a Wonderful World,” the popular recording by Louis Armstrong.

This concert was recorded for a new PBS series, “Next at the Kennedy Center,” to air in 2023. 

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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