Soaring jazz from Jason Moran’s BANGS trio at Sanders Theatre
CAMBRIDGE — The Jason Moran set that World Music/CRASHarts brought to Sanders Theatre Sunday night, BANGS featuring guitarist Mary Halvorson and cornetist Ron Miles, was a rare live performance of what might be called chamber jazz from a 2017 Moran album of that name. And though no drums were involved, the music — mixing language drawn from traditional and avant-garde jazz and contemporary classical — went over with, yes, a bang.
The trio — each of them seated and facing sheet music — revisited songs from the album, often gliding from one tune to the next without pause, the order shuffled from that of the record.
Miles’s “My Father’s House” came up early, its memorably old-timey melody inspiring Moran to migrate from stride-inflected simplicity to flurries of notes, his hands racing in opposite directions simultaneously as his solo reached its climax. Miles’s “Cupid,” arranged for the concert to flow out of a piece drawn from Moran’s collaborations with visual artist Joan Jonas (“They Come to Us Theme”), was, similarly, deceptively simple. Both Miles pieces called to mind a Charles Mingus quote about how making the complicated simple is far harder than its opposite, and a good definition of creativity. “Cupid” sounded so familiar it was as if it has existed forever, and that Miles had simply reached up to where its namesake dwells and tugged it down to Earth for human enjoyment.
Brookline native Halvorson had family in the audience. Her intriguing compositions “White Space” and “Red Sky Green” were performed, and she gave evidence of her uniquely inventive approaches to her instrument — on the latter piece, for instance, using a slide to coax percussive sounds from the guitar that sounded vaguely like a tambourine.
Other Moran tunes from the album got airings as well, of course: “Crops,” some of “The 13th Fugue,” “Gangsterism in the Wind,” the last of these from his ever-growing series of pieces inspired by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
For an encore, Moran chose something from a newer project of his, a multimedia celebration of the seminal jazz musician James Reese Europe. Moran told the audience of how Europe and his Harlem Hellfighters often played the 1857 hymn “Flee Like a Bird” at burials during World War I. Moran and his bandmates took advantage of Sanders Theatre’s high-ceilinged dimensions to do likewise, sending the audience home by elevating their spirits much as Europe had done the fallen soldiers’ souls.
JASON MORAN: BANGS FEATURING MARY HALVORSON AND RON MILES
At Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, Sunday night