Entertainment » Music

Jason Moran and Q Tip

by Rachel  Breitman
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Oct 8, 2017
Jason Moran and Q Tip

As pianist and composer Jason Moran helps kick off the first Hip Hop season at the Kennedy Center with rapper, DJ, and producer Kamaal Ibn John Fareed (Q-Tip) the audience is treated to a rare fusion of jazz and hip-hop, history and present.

Both men are on staff at the Kennedy Center as Artistic Directors, and their much touted collaboration showed a mutual respect of each artist for the other's craft, without a clearly thought out synthesis of the two. Both spoke in glowing terms of artists who played central roles in their craft, from Grandmaster Flash to Thelonious Monk, but neither was able to really consider where the crossroads between the two art forms lie. Instead, the concert had the feeling of two men brainstorming alone, without the necessary collaboration to create a unique fusion of genres.

New York born Q-Tip, the former leader of A Tribe Called Quest and Houston, Texas born Moran both spoke thoughtfully about their motivations and their interests. Q-Tip's reflected on the role that hip-hop played in the 1970s for African-American men fresh from Vietnam, returning to New York and trying to define themselves and express their alienation.

His riffs at times had elements of a lecture, like a professor with a backbeat. In his new role, he plans to provide other celebrations of the roots on hip-hop culture at the Kennedy Center.

But to show the art form's steady relevance, he may want to be willing to separate from his starry-eyed view of the past, and instead consider the role that hip-hop plays today in sculpting musicians and culture. The concert had the feeling of an extended reminiscence without actually creating anything new or meaningful.

With Deborah Rutter at the helm of the Kennedy Center, the historic performance space has committed to its first full hip hop season, mixing dance parties, DJs, concerts, and spoken word.

As the first artistic director of hip-hop culture for the Kennedy Center, Q-Tip will play an important role, cultivating music selection and performers.

Simone Eccleston, the director of hip-hop culture and contemporary music at the Kennedy Center, will also play a key role in planning and executing the upcoming season, after moving from her role as the director at the Harlem Stage.

While Q-Tip, with his history of performance and production will have a key role in crafting the upcoming season, further collaborations may need a bit more fine tuning, with enough preparation and time to think critically about what new art forms will grow from the roots of hip-hop and jazz.

In November, a day-long hip-hop culture festival will include a break dance competition and graffiti jam. Dance parties with DJ Pioneers Rich Medina and Grandmaster Caz will also follow several productions. Also, a performance will adapt Ta-Nehisi Coates' National Book Award winner "Between The World And Me," for performance.

Jason Moran's Thelonious Monk Centennial Celebration will be held October 8 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. For tickets or information, call 202-467-4600 or go to kennedy-center.org

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