The Performance Space of the Wexner Center was designed to be modular so that it could accommodate a wide range of artistic presentations, and this type of set-up was coincidentally the environment that Moran's trio enjoys. As Moran said during one of the breaks between numbers, "This is our first time in Columbus, and we'll definitely have to come back to see some of the exhibits here because we believe in including all of the arts in our music." On the other hand, he noted, "We got a special reception when we arrived in Columbus. When we got into the cab, we heard shouting and saw someone getting arrested and ran into crowds of people. This is just like New York!" It was the trio's luck or misfortune to be scheduled to perform during the evening of Ohio State University's homecoming parade, and the Wexner Center is situated at the tip of the center of the campus.
Nonetheless, those who attended the concert had their priorities straight: the sublimity of art over the rowdiness of homecoming activities. And Moran's The Bandwagon delivered!
In fact, the concert proceeded in similar fashion to the recording, Jason Moran Presents The Bandwagon, which was recorded live at The Village Vanguard. With similar pre-recorded mixing, including the same "Intro" from the CD, Moran's trio presented a concert in much the same sequence as the recording. But like all exemplary improvisers, Moran, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits never play the same tune the same way twice. And in live performance, not only do attendees have the opportunity to see how the musicians interact, but also get the feeling of excitement from personal interaction that recorded music can't provide.
The noteworthy aspect of their interaction was the it was instantaneous, as each of the three listened intently to the others and responded intuitively to embellish the others' playing, for a thrilling unified effect. There were no hand cues as Moran would without warning triple the meter, and yet there was no slippage among the trio.
So, as those who are familiar with Jason Moran Presents the Bandwagon would expect, The Bandwagon's concert started with Mateen's "Another One," a tune built upon single motive but which undergoes multiple shifts of colors and tempos. And seamlessly, except when Moran chose to speak to the audience, Moran would glide from Brahms' "Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2" into "Ringing My Phone (Straight Outta Istanbul)," complete with the recording of the Turkish telephone call that the trio musically imitates.
One of the numbers special to Moran was Jaki Byard's "Out Front." Moran explained that Byard took him under his wing when Moran moved to New York at the age of 18. Meeting every Monday for lessons, Moran continued to improve and prove himself to his mentor. As he explained to his audience, he was "still trying to get an A" in performing "Out Front." As far as the audience was concerned, Moran got an A+ because several times during the performance, they broke out into applause as an expression of appreciation for the energy that built up during the "practice" and at the incredible technique employed.
Also included were Moran's sentimental tribute to his grandparents, "Gentle Shifts South," during which they recalls their own grandparents, tracing the Moran family's lineage to the early part of the century. And as Moran explained, "Family is the most important thing to me, and I can't go a week without talking to members of my family." The Bandwagon's personalized interpretation of "Body and Soul" was included, as was the penultimate playing of "Planet Rock," which captured the audience's imagination.
The audience at the Performance Space would not be denied an encore. At the end of the concert, no one left. Everyone remained standing to clap and hoot and demand an encore. The Bandwagon's reaction to such an enthuasiastic ovation can only be imagined. But of course, they encored. At first Waits came out to deliver one of his nuanced drum solos, no one knowing where it would lead. After Moran and Mateen teased with an unhinting introduction, the Bandwagon eventually broke out into Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder," living up to the audience's expectations for even more stimulating jazz, as Moran's trio answers the question of where jazz is headed and how new audiences can be reached.
Well, Ohio State won its homecoming game in a stadium of 105,000 excited fans. But another kind of excitement occurred on campus during homecoming weekend, and those who were infused by the music of The Bandwagon will remember that night as vividly as will those who attended the football game the next day.