'The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess': United by music
Published 2:46 pm, Wednesday, November 6, 2013
He’s an internationally acclaimed jazz composer and pianist. She’s a revered singer who’s starring as Bess in the tour of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” They also happen to be married, and because the fates have allowed, their career paths converge in San Francisco this month.
While Alicia Hall Moran’s tour of the Gershwin musical kicks off its national tour at the Golden Gate Theatre, Jason Moran will be a resident artistic director with SFJazz for five days. That residency culminates Nov. 25 with “A Perfect Blend,” a concert with his wife of 10 years.
On the phone from the Harlem home they share with their 5-year-old twins Malcolm and Jonas, the Morans say they both have history with San Francisco.
Alicia was born in Redwood City, and one of the last times she performed in San Francisco was when she was quite visibly pregnant with the twins and performing in Bill T. Jones' dance-theater piece “Chapel/Chapter,” which dealt quite frankly with the deaths of children.
"Some people were overwhelmed by the show and walked out," she says. "That was a very courageous musical experience for me. I had the twins a month later."
Now she’s back singing the challenging role of Bess, which she calls “the chance of a lifetime.”
Jason, who grew up in Houston, remembers vacations to San Francisco involving the Moran brothers skateboarding all over the Embarcadero. As a professional musician, his first commission came in 2000 from SFJazz.
"I have a good relationship with the Bay Area audience," he says. "I have been commissioned more in San Francisco than in any other city. The audience there has seen a wide swath of what I do, and they’ve helped me grow so much."
The Morans, who met at the Manhattan School of Music, are fully immersed in their individual worlds - she was Audra McDonald's understudy for “Porgy and Bess” on Broadway and he keeps up a busy touring schedule. But occasionally they do get to work together, as they'll be doing for one night at SFJazz.
"It’s difficult to be married and make art together," Jason says. "It’s more difficult for us because our practices are different, how we arrive at our product. I can appreciate Alicia demanding I practice more because I could practice more. In the end, there’s something about digging in the ground, as I call it, when you’re trying to make something special."
"I agree 100 percent," Alicia says. "We benefit from what the other’s instrument does. I can bring voice and words to what Jason does, and I’m proud of the dimension that has added to Jason’s view of jazz as a whole."
If you go
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess: 2 p.m. Sunday. Through Dec. 8; check website for full schedule. $40-$210. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F. (888) 746-1799.www.shnsf.com. Jason Moran Residency @ SFJazz: Nov. 20-25. $25-$55. SFJazz Center, 201 Franklin St., S.F. (866) 920-5299. www.sfjazz.org.