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Jazz on the Half Pipe

Pianist and MacArthur “genius” Jason Moran on his gig at SFJazz, which combines music with skateboarding—on a real half-pipe!

Jazz musician Jason Moran.

"I wasn't even thinking of the feasibility," Moran says of the skating ramp by Kent Uyehara and George Rocha, "I just hope there are no injuries!"

OK, we’ll bite—what on earth does skateboarding have to do with jazz?
Both are subcultures with their own lingo and style sensibility. and if you think about how skating developed—in empty pools and open areas, and then on ramps and rails and stairs—and the obstacles that you navigate, there’s a similarity to jazz there as well. Maybe the biggest overlap is how someone who does it develops. A jazz musician will listen to Coltrane or whomever and then learn their language. Skaters watch and learn the same way. My older brother and I skated when we vacationed in San Francisco as kids. We saw pros and kids who were just learning, skating together, and it was like a jazz jam session. 

We're happy to have you, but why the decision to do this here?
I work at the Kennedy Center in D.C. and they were like, what about us, why aren't you doing this here? But you see, there's no space in New York, and I've never seen a skateboarder in D.C. I know that community is there, but finding it would be the challenge. And I'm thinking of how important skating has been to San Francisco, just like jazz in Harlem. I wanted to acknowledge something outside of the jazz form that's important to the city and to me.

How do you plan a set like this?
A lot will be determined on the spot. We'll have to see what happens. I just hope there are no injuries.

What will you do if there are? Will the show go on?
I have no idea. I've been trying not to think about that. [Laughing]. Now you've got me all nervous about it.

Moran and Skateboarders, May 4–5; Other Moran, May 2–3,


Originally Published in the May issue of San Francisco

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