Jazz Pianist Soars Ahead But Doesn’t Forget His Roots

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This Black History Month, we honor the GAME CHANGERS: Everyday heroes whose actions make life better for the people around them. SEE ALL OUR GAME CHANGERS HERE.

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Jason Moran JazzJason Moran

Place of residence: New York City

Why he’s a Game Changer: Moran, 38, an international jazz musician, is increasingly becoming an ambassador for the art form while remaining one of its top practitioners. He was named Artistic Adviser for Jazz at the Kennedy Center. He was also the recipient of a 2011 McArthur Fellowship and has received Downbeat magazine’s Jazz Artist of the Year Award for 2011.

Moran is simultaneously enmeshed in the history and the future of jazz. Together with singer Meshell N’degeocello, the jazz pianist and composer put together a show called “Fats Waller Dance Party” for Harlem Stage, where they update the music of Waller to give modern day fans an idea of what it might have been like to get down at Smalls Paradise in Harlem. That’s Moran in the picture below rocking a giant Fats Waller mask at one of the Harlem Stage performances.

But at the same time, Moran is not afraid of exploring ways in which  jazz can learn and grow from hip-hop music. The brother did a version of “Planet Rock” on his 2002 Blue Note LP titled Modernistic.

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