Sunday night, on the main stage of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Jason Moran premiered his new work, "Feedback."
Jason Moran discusses "Feedback" at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Photo by Mike Rainey.
Before the performance, Moran explained that the work was inspired by Jimi Hendrix's performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. "He was really able to work feedback in a very musical way," Moran said. Moran had studied the feedback sections of Hendrix's performance and sought to reference them in "Feedback."
Watching the first performance of "Feedback" was absolutely exhilarating. The piece began as something profoundly dissonant and deconstructed, almost Dadaesque. Moran ran a beer bottle along the strings of the piano as he played the keys, changing the tone. As he took a swig from the bottle, the audience cheered. The drummer then dragged his stick and a microphone across the cymbal, creating clashing, screeching noises as the bassist played selected notes as counterpoint.
Jason Moran uses a beer bottle to play piano. Photo by Mike Rainey.
Just when the piece seemed like it would spin out of control into random, unmitigated noise, the piano became melodic and comforting as the bass and drums joined in for something slower and more traditional. But even these traditional sections were punctuated with cascading background loops of feedback. The music momentarily glided into a faster and propulsive, rock-influenced tempo, then transformed back into an accelerated jazz piece. The feedback was a dissonant element in what would otherwise have been a straight-ahead jazz composition.
Jason Moran generates feedback. Photo by Mike Rainey.
Moran switched back and forth between keyboard and piano throughout the piece, occasionally walking up to the Marshall amp stack with a microphone, moving it across the speakers to generate new and surprising tones. Finally, he came to the front of the stage to sing briefly. Then he brought the audience in to sing for the finale, one half singing a low tone while the other sang something akin to a police siren.
For more information on the Monterey Jazz Festival, see our Monterey Jazz Festival category.