In the 1930s, the Savoy Ballroom (one of the rare venues that allowed blacks and whites to dance together) boasted an arced wall that shot up over the band, extending several feet past the stage over the dance floor. This wall was the visual hallmark of the famous club and acoustically was significant as well: it aimed the music directly at the dancers, moving the sounds from the dance floor right back at the performing musicians, thus blending the energy and music into one dynamic force. Conversely, The Three Deuces was a cramped and oddly shaped jazz venue located on the legendary 52nd Street in midtown Manhattan; the intimacy of this small space was antithetical to the sprawl of clubs like The Savoy Ballroom — the music was only a few feet away from the audience, where the ceiling was very low, the stage was small and uneven, the entire environment close and compact.
Certain design elements from these two historic spaces – the lighting fixtures, the wall treatments, for example – will be carefully and beautifully recreated in Jason’s stages, where in Venice music will be played. A number of live performances will activate The Three Deuces stage with a variety of contemporary jazz musicians, including Jason and his longtime band The Bandwagon; when no performances are happening, instruments (piano, bass, drums) will be positioned on the Three Deuces stage, wrapped in some fashion and waiting to be animated by musicians. A series of old and new work songs will be the soundtrack playing from both stages (in between performances), strongly underscoring for the visitor the labor of the musicians who enlivened these original contexts and situations.
The sculptures will be positioned in the Arsenale directly across from each other; this will force visitors to walk between these two separate but related arenas for musical experimentation and production. The dynamic tension created by the positioning of the two stages is critical – the Savoy wall confronting the Three Deuces stage embodies the face-off of these two distinct eras of jazz production as well as the shifting contexts for African-Americans leading up to the period of unrest that was to come.
About JASON MORAN
Jazz pianist, composer, and performance artist Jason Moran was born in Houston, TX in 1975 and earned a degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Jaki Byard. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2010 and is the Artistic Director for Jazz at The Kennedy Center. Moran currently teaches at the New England Conservatory.
Moran’s rich and varied body of work is actively shaping the current and future landscape of jazz. He is deeply invested in reassessing and complicating the relationship between music and language, and his extensive efforts in composition, improvisation, and performance are all geared towards challenging the status quo while respecting the accomplishments of his predecessors. His activity stretches beyond the many recordings and performances with masters of the form including Charles Lloyd, Bill Frisell, and the late Sam Rivers, and his work with his trio The Bandwagon (with drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen) has resulted in a profound discography for Blue Note Records. The scope of Moran’s partnerships and music-making with venerated and iconic visual artists is extensive. He has collaborated with such major figures as Adrian Piper, Joan Jonas, Glenn Ligon, Stan Douglas, Adam Pendleton, Lorna Simpson, and Kara Walker; commissioning institutions of Moran’s work include the Walker Art Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Dia Art Foundation, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
* Three new recordings written, produced & performed by Jason Moran
* Created for the Venice Biennale 2015
* Pressed on heavyweight 180-gram black vinyl
* Cover and inner sleeve artwork by the artist
* Limited edition of 300 copies
A widely acknowledged jazz pioneer with a succession of acclaimed albums for Blue Note under his belt, Jason Moran is also an artist whose project for the 2015 Venice Biennale is the emotionally resonant STAGED, a powerful performative work that derives from his interest in the history of the jazz idiom.
STAGED is two stand-alone sculptural installations that recreate architectural elements from two historic New York City jazz spaces: The Savoy Ballroom and The Three Deuces. These two spaces represent two distinct eras of American jazz: the 1930s swing era and the 1950s be-bop period. The musical repertoire changed dramatically from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, mirroring the shifts in the political, social, and economic landscape of African-Americans as they approached the cusp of the civil rights movement.
All Hammers and Chains
Released by The Vinyl Factory, 2015. In collaboration with Luhring Augustine, New York.