Vision & Justice: Jason Moran on an Army Jazz Band
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, Jason Moran responds to an unknown photographer’s picture of an army jazz band.
I’ve been obsessed with the various modes of jazz documentation throughout the genre’s evolution. This 1919 image of soldiers on the USS Antigone is simply phenomenal. Groups like this and James Reese Europe’s Harlem Hellfighters band changed the trajectory of modern music. Some soldiers perform, some listen, all are entranced. They could either be heading to the fight or returning from it. The music is serving as a balm, a shield, and a release for anyone close enough to hear it. I imagine the sound of that band as the ship bobs up and down, and how everyone is curious what will happen when they reach land. Improvise.
Jason Moran, a pianist and composer, is Artistic Director for Jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.