I have always been totally fascinated by Jazz. I continue to marvel at those incredible musicians that have mastered the skill of improvisation. And the Jazz musicians captured in this project are VERY skilled at their craft. They enter another world by exploiting the right â??Keysâ? when they take their solos. And, if you, as the observer, are really listening, you will make the unpredictable trip to that other world with them enveloped in their blanket of FREEDOM with limited rules.
My connection to Jazz is very deep and very personal. I saw jazz as a child as a more subdued smoky, blue light and learned very early that Jazz was something very special, yet truly, a confusing enigma. Jazz records were always in a special pile, and it was simply understood that there would be hell to pay if the surface of one of these treasured records got damaged or scratched.
Jazz really stirred something in my parents that allowed them to freely reveal their pain as African American adults in the 50â??s and 60â??s. Jazz was part of their ritual that transitioned them to brief periods of relaxation. My mother or father (usually my mother) would carefully remove the jazz records from the album covers and sleeves and gently stack them on the shiny metal rod in the center of the turntable. And by the time that the first record hit the turntable platter and reached the full speed of 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, my parents, either individually, or together, were sitting on the couch, heads back, with a lit cigarette holstered in their monogrammed ashtrays waiting for the soothing sound of Coleman Hawkinsâ??s breath latent tenor sax, or the unpredictable harmonic brass blowout of a Count Basie opening.
Jazz listening was sometimes accompanied with alcohol â?? usually Cutty Sark scotch or a beer, but always with a full supply of Kent filtered cigarettes. This seemed appropriate since many of the musicians on the album covers looked as if they were doing the same. I especially remember a Coleman Hawkins album and noted how much more relaxed he looked than Nat King Cole or other more mainstream musicians on their albums. The blue tint effect of the black and white picture along with Colemanâ??s casual and somewhat disheveled look just said â??Cool.â?
Another favorite was their â??Big Beat on the Organâ? album by Jimmy Smith. I must have been about 6 or 7 at the time and my brother had to explain the metaphor from the picture of a huge red beet lying on the keyboard of an organ. Now that was REALLY cool.
Jazz was one of the bright joys in my parentâ??s lives that helped them decompress from the dull, dim darkness of oppression and racism that they faced everyday while they struggled to carve out a good life for their family. Jazz served as a protest or a position of non-conformity that my parents could flick back on the â??white manâ? and say, â??I donâ??t care what you do to me, cause Iâ??ve Got JAZZ and you will NEVER be this COOL!â? So, it should be no surprise that I have been walking into the light of jazz some part of my entire life through listening, performing and capturing the images of Jazz. To me, â??Everything Jazzâ? clearly represents those joyful moments of freedom that I watched my parents cherish so much to help them deal with the â??dark sideâ? of being â??Black in America.â? Jazz is
My photographs convey only a mere portion of what I felt when the image was captured. What is missing is the music produced by the subject, in that space, in that moment in time, never to be heard again the same way. I want to make people feel the music through that one instant from the musicianâ??s expression and body language. I want people to experience the joy and freedom that these musicians feel through their expression of music, and, really feel some part of those â??Stolen Momentsâ? of freedom felt by my parents during a very difficult and complex time in America.
Jazz is Freedom, Freedom is Jazz!