I get the sense that the notion of improvising is one of the great cliches about jazz music; and that most folks don’t understand or appreciate the serious form or structure that serves as the foundation, and what it takes to get to such a point. Instead, one thinks about the muse striking, ideas flowing, and amazing jam sessions happening all the time. I think this because I know that’s a cliché about “street photography.” That it’s this careless way of making images, snapshots of random moments that anyone could make. As if the photographer didn’t account for its subject, light, composition, the lens that renders the real world, the climax of the scene.  And in the end, what the image is saying visually. 

andre d. wagner

andre d. wagner

Just like photographers, jazz musicians get ideas and learn to improvise when they have prepared themselves. Of course preparation takes passion, countless years of practice, a life-long dedication, even, on top of the constant will to never be satisfied. Jazz and/or photography becomes the lifestyle, and you start to see pictures forming, or hear a tempo in everything around you. Over time, the artist can get to the core of why they started the craft in the first place. You see, it’s really all about what one feels, and what you want listeners or viewers to feel. It’s a dialect, and now that you have the tools, it’s your responsibility to say something.

andre d. wagner

andre d. wagner

So when you see the image of the boy listening to music while sitting on the stool, you can’t help but notice how everything is perfectly in its place. The low vantage point that draws you into his world, and the motion of his fingers as if he’s playing the piano to the days tune. Or the train that zips by the bass player as he waits at the Myrtle Avenue stop. All the sounds of Brooklyn jump off this image, and even in the quiet moment when trumpet and guitar lay at a rest, the the piercing light that welcomes in the warmth as we await the next set. I’m not a musician, but I can tell you this, when I hear great jazz it penetrates my soul, it’s like a message or channel for creativity and expression. I get the same feelings when I’m in the midst of great photography, like images by Roy DeCarava or Louis Draper. I believe there are great parallels between jazz and photography, one is being in that constant search of divine moments. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but when it does, you won’t have to ask, is that jazz?