Jason Moran is no stranger to incorporating his personal interests into his concerts. In the past decade, the 47-year-old jazz pianist has collaborated with skateboarders on a halfpipe, held open-floor dance parties and dabbled in hip-hop improvisation with rapper Q-Tip.
Now, Moran is exploring his personal family history in a concert called Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration, coming to Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall on Thursday, Feb. 17.
The concert is a musical exploration of the Great Migration, the decades-long period in the 20th century when Black families fled the racism and lynching of the Jim Crow South. It’s co-led by Moran’s wife, the acclaimed mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran, and the stacked program, organized specially for the Bay Area, includes trumpeter Ambrose Akinsmure, saxophonist Howard Wiley and the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church Ensemble.
It’s hard to overestimate the Great Migration’s effect on Black culture, and, by extension, American culture, Moran says.
“Six million African Americans departing the South for places North, Northeast, and to the West from 1910 to 1970 reshapes the way the country sounds,” Jason explains, in a joint phone interview with Alicia. “The songs that they make, and the stories they write, and the dances they dance, and the poems they recite, the prayers they lift up, the ceremonies they create.”
The songs performed in Two Wings span the Great Migration era, and include the jazz of the Harlem Renaissance, show tunes, gospel hymns, classical music and the Moran’s own compositions.