Envisioning Jazz: Photographs Capture Legendary Musicians in and Around New York City

May 12, 2011

Envisioning Jazz at Columbia’s Miller Theatre, part of the School of the Arts (SOA), examines the rich history and diverse expressions of jazz captured by photographer Kwame Brathwaite, a Harlem native and photographer with more than 50 years of photojournalistic experience. The exhibit is part of the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival, which celebrates the many venues throughout Harlem that have supported jazz musicians, including the Alhambra Ballroom, the Apollo Theater, Lenox Lounge and Minton’s Playhouse. The festival began May 9 and runs until May 15. The exhibit will remain up until July 10; the theater is open weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Curated by Erica Agyeman, a master’s student in modern art history specializing in African art at theGraduate School of Arts and Sciences, the exhibit features photographs of modern jazz musicians and singers from 1957 to 2010, including Miles Davis, Julian \"Cannonball\" Adderley, Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. Brathwaite shot the musicians at clubs, festivals and recording studios around New York.

The selection gives particular attention to musicians renowned for their artistic virtuosity as well as for their role in the formation of diverse modern jazz styles. The photographs also focus on politically active musicians and singers, such as Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, who expressed their commitment to global civil rights through their music.

Brathwaite was the official photographer for the African Jazz Art Society and Studios (1957-72) and for the Apollo Theater (1986-93). His photos have been included in more than twenty books and magazines, including the cover image of the biographyColtrane, by C.O. Simpkins. His photos are included in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s recent travelling exhibition and publication, Ain’t Nothing but the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment.

Erica Agyeman has curated exhibitions at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, California, including Decoding Identity, American Icons: Bay Area and Sacred Arts of Haiti, and acted as a curatorial advisor for Art/Object: Recontextualizing African Art. She was a guest curator for Head + Heart + Hand at the National Museum of Ghana and Caught in the Spotlight at Bridgehead Studios. She served as the secretary of the board of directors for the Frank Bette Center for the Arts from 2008 until 2010.

This exhibition is also supported by Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies, the Department of Art History and Archaeology, the Institute for Religion, Culture & Public Life and the Institute for Research in African-American Studies