By Jennifer Robinson for KPBS
Premieres Friday, April 21, 2023 at 10/9c on PBS
With six Grammys and a MacArthur Genius Award between them, pianist Jason Moran and bassist Christian McBride are two of the most sought-after artists alive. On this episode of NEXT AT THE KENNEDY CENTER, these music icons are partnering together at The Kennedy Center for an electrifying performance elevating the jazz tradition. In the one-hour program, Moran and McBride will also share stories about their legendary teachers and introduce viewers to their remarkable protégés.
Taking inspiration from America’s diverse artistic landscape, Moran and McBride’s collaboration is infused with a distinctive soul which illuminates their reverence of the past, and commitment to make every note feel relevant to modern times. These elements are felt through performances of music composed by legends Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Geri Allen and Louis Armstrong.
Whether it’s taking inspiration from the text of Toni Morrison or their love of Hip Hop and Funk, in both their musical sensibilities and as ambassadors for the jazz community, they hold a deep appreciation for the entire tradition of Jazz – each as links in a chain dedicated to the preservation and evolution of America’s original musical art form.
From a young age, each sought out their heroes to absorb knowledge, wisdom, and take lessons in temperament, collaboration, and musicianship. Moran and McBride have learned by the side of countless legends including Jaki Byard, Betty Carter, Geri Allen, and Freddie Hubbard. Lessons from these individuals informed how they approach their work, inspired their future roles as artistic ambassadors, and instilled a commitment to paying it forward by mentoring the next generation of jazz greats – ensuring the rich legacy of jazz is preserved and is given freedom for evolution.
While Moran’s role as artistic director of “Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead” program at The Kennedy Center and McBride’s role as artistic director of “Jazz House Kids” in New Jersey are formal encapsulations of their leadership in the field, they continuously strive to identify and offer opportunities to the next generation of musicians who follow in their footsteps.
In service of paying forward learnings from their mentors, Moran and McBride have taken emerging musicians Sequoia “REDWOOD” Snyder (piano) and Liany Mateo (bass) under their respective wings to offer opportunity and carry the torch.
In this spirit, REDWOOD and Mateo perform and contextualize their places in this storied continuum. In the tradition of the Bill Evans/Eddie Gomez duets, The Moran/McBride Session focuses on a night of great music and the importance of America’s musical legacy as it is passed from generation to generation.
A production of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Matthew Winer and Steve Holtzman serve as executive producers for the Kennedy Center. Kristin Fosdick directs the series with her team in the Kennedy Center’s multimedia department. Elizabeth O’Neil is the associate director of content and strategy for PBS.