Jason Moran, MacArthur Fellow

Photo by Shaul Schwarz

The name of composer Jason Moran, who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship recently, might be familiar to Philadelphians. It was his Cane that was commissioned by the Kimmel Center for the opening of its Fresh Ink series in 2008. At that concert, the piece, played by Imani Winds, struck me as something that deserved more than one hearing, and perhaps that will now come to pass.

Here were my impressions:

The title refers to the Cane River in Louisiana, which runs through Natchitoches, where Moran's family lived in the 1700s. Literal references, if they existed, were hard to catch. But it does convey mood. In a rather conservative musical language, Moran in one movement pits melody against urgent, telegraphing rhythms. In another, he's pastoral and reflective. It's lovely music, but there was only a pale sense of musical material tying it to a sense of place. 

Listen for yourself.