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Jason Moran: Bathing the Room With Blues

Sep 10, 2021 - Jan 30, 2022

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For his solo exhibition at the MCA Denver, renowned artist and musician Jason Moran will present a gathering of artworks that celebrates space and creative expression in jazz history, as well as the importance of music and live performance as vital forces in Black culture and American life. Through a range of media, Moran highlights his fascination with the physical environments where music is born and how the residue of music-making can be captured.


Conceived during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bathing the Room with Blues debuts a series of new works on paper made during the past year. These works were created by Moran placing a sheet of Japanese Gampi paper on a piano and then using saturated pigment to track the “attack” of his fingers upon the keys. The results are vibrant traces of a performance that build upon his recurring quest to explore the “residues” of music-making.


The color blue, which dominates many of these works on paper, alludes to the rich migratory history of Blues music, the sentiment of melancholy found in “blue notes,” and the diaspora of traditions brought to the United States from the African continent (in North Africa, for example, blue is associated with healing). The intensity of the Black Lives Matter protests from the last year further informs these works, as the blue marks at times resemble marchers moving in formation across the page. The marks also represent the how the musical phrases in a solo gather.   


These works on paper will be complemented by the presentation of Moran’s STAGED: Three Deuces, 2015. Inspired by the legendary club Three Deuces, located in midtown Manhattan, this sculpture pays homage to the history of bebop jazz in the 1940s and the legendary musicians like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker (aka Bird), and Max Roach who played out of the corner of this small jazz space. STAGED: Three Deuces features a Steinway Spirio player piano that will perform songs created by Moran.


Acknowledging the layered history of jazz in the United States, and the destructive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional facets of this exhibition will explore the history of jazz in Denver, and the closure of influential jazz spaces over the last year, both in this city and nationally. Together with Ron Miles, an internationally renowned composer and trumpet and cornet player based in Denver, Moran will develop a series of performances that highlight the jazz community of this region.