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.

Photographer unknown, An army jazz band on the USS Antigone, 1919. Courtesy PBA Galleries

Photographer unknown, An army jazz band on the USS Antigone, 1919. Courtesy PBA Galleries

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.

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