Vision & Justice: Ingrid Monson on Roy DeCarava

Collectors: The Jazz Musicians

For the “Vision & Justice” issue of Aperture, Wynton Marsalis, Ingrid Monson, Alicia Hall Moran, Jason Moran, and Somi reflect on photographs that represent moments in their lives. Here, Monson responds to Roy DeCarava’s Oliver Beener Group #13.

Roy DeCarava, Oliver Beener Group #13, 1956 © Estate of Roy DeCarava

Roy DeCarava, Oliver Beener Group #13, 1956 © Estate of Roy DeCarava

Trumpeter Oliver Beener’s quartet silhouetted from behind, looking out into a smoky room (perhaps the Club 845 or Blue Morocco in the Bronx), captures, for me, the preeminence of the rhythm section in jazz. The trumpeter held up by the pulsating collaboration between the bass, drums, and piano taking place behind him. The Victorian ceiling refracting the harsh club lighting, glaring at the drummer and through the piano bench, making the snare stand, bottom of the hi-hat, and piano panel unusually visible. We see the musicians’ point of view, accelerated by the receding lines of the tin ceiling, pulling us into their world, their responsibilities, their teamwork, their joy. A woman and a fedoraed man look up, hearing intently.

Ingrid Monson is the Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music at Harvard University.

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