Seeing Jazz: Artists and Writers on Jazz Seeing Jazz showcases over one hundred beautiful paintings, photographs, sculptures, multimedia works, and textile art, all inspired by the moods and rhythms of jazz. Works from such artists as Romare Bearden, James Phillips, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gjon Mili, Henri Matisse, William Claxton, Stuart Davis, Ann Tanksley, Archibald Motley, Ed Love, Gordon Parks, Man Ray and others. More than sixty literary selections from some of the twentieth century's most celebrated writers, including Toni Morrison, Julio Cortazar, Jack Kerouac, Rita Dove, Michael Ondaatje and Langston Hughes, all complemented with an arrangement of artwork.

With a foreword by jazz great Clark Terry, an introduction by jazz scholar Robert O'Meally, and an afterward by celebrated double bass player Milt Hinton, this exhilarating concert of music, art and literature will enthral jazz fans, art lovers, and literary hipsters alike.

Compiled by Marquette Folley-Carter, Deborah Macanic & Janice McNeil; published by the Smithsonian Institute.


I acquired Seeing Jazz when it was first published in 1997, and to my knowledge, the first compilation of art and literature inspired by the great American musical art form known as jazz. It's not an exhaustive effort, like an encyclopedia, but rather a spirited endeavor, illuminating the cross-disciplinary passions and affections for jazz, spanning some five decades.

The musical, literary and visual aspects of jazz art is about living in the moment. The authors, sculptors, painters and photographers found in Seeing Jazz all see an image, whether it be through physical eyes or the mind's eye, and instantly capture that expression.

Here are some of my favorite "moments" from the book:

  • Photographs: Cozy Cole, Danny Barker and Shad Collins in New Orleans (1941), a shot of Dizzy Gillespie listening to Ella Fitzgerald (1947), and Gerry Mulligan with Zoot Sims at the Mercury Recording, New York City (1955).
  • Paintings: "We Came To Play", an acrylic on canvas of Dizzy Gillespie. Charlie Parker, and Thelonius Monk. "Carolina Shout", an acrylic on canvas, and "Oop-Pop-A-Da", mixed media on paper.
  • Sculptures: "Striving" (bronze).
  • Literary: A bounteous display of personal anecdotes and poems.


Artists who create in the language of jazz, whether it be musician or poet, sculptor or photographer, essayist or playwright, all share common influences and themes. Seeing Jazz brings together not only art about jazz, but "in the moment" works which in themselves fulfill the jazz mantra.