Review

Desdemone Bardin – Jazz Zoom

Carryin’ It On

DVC Press • 2011

»I haven’t used the term †ºJazz†¹ because I don’t make a separation between the different phases of historical African American music, such as †ºBlues†¹ music, so-called †ºRock & Roll†¹ music, so-called †ºHip Hop†¹ music – I would make no differentiation between John Coltrane and James Brown; for me, James and John are the same.« These words underline the bigger context of Jazz as a unifier of the creativity of African American music – not only Archie Shepp defines Jazz in this way, but also Desdemone Bardin, whose interviews and photographs have now been published in book-form for the very first time. To be precise, the coffee-table book in the format of an LP (12 inches) weighs almost four pounds and contains 85 interviews and 127 previously unpublished photos. In interviews with Lester Bowie, Marshall Allen, Leroy Jenkins, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor or Fontanella Bass, the book shows similarities between the artists’ aesthetic, political and sociological notions. At one point, it’s summarized by the explanation that it’s about »The Be Bop and the Hip Hop of it all«. However, Jazz Zoom. Carryin’ it On even goes one step further and decodes cross-references to other art forms. It broaches the issue of the written word’s influence on music with the saxophonist Henry Threadgill on the basis of Derek Wolcott’s poetry, asks Anthony Braxton about the interplay of visual arts and his music and intersperses poems by Ntozake Shange, Tracie Morries and Quincy Troupe just as casually as Jerome Lagarrigue’s drawings into the musical discourse. With the late Marion Brown, the tenor saxophonist who passed away last year and who was also a talented visual artist, Desdemone Bardin talks about the connection between jazz and painting. He says: »I think one thing that links all art forms is content and style and my style, whether I’m painting or playing, is the same. My style in art is the beauty of the line and the movement of the breath.«Â And that’s exactly what this book is about: a certain style, a certain mindset, a certain tune. In short, Jazz Zoom is Desdemone Bardin’s Jazz-legacy. Her pictures and interviews are marked by simplicity, yet they appear focused all the time. Stylistically, both are sketches that are vaguely drawing the subject without unmasking the portrayed. They are improvisations, snap shots, which don’t convey the artists’ works but rather their sounds. That’s as much as a compliment for a Jazz-book as possible. The only minor flaw is that the reader doesn’t get to know when the interviews and photos came into being. Especially, since the complexity of Jazz is best understood in the context of its time-line. Hence, a certain chronology would have made it easier to recognize the connections and situations. But this doesn’t change the fact that Jazz Zoom is a great homage to the endless creativity and the protagonists of a kind of music that’s still widely underestimated. And it’s also a salute to the photographer and sociologist Desdemone Bardin, who died in 2001 and had been addicted to Jazz since her early childhood. She was an ardent admirer of this music, and, as she called herself: a »Jazz agitproptiste«.