Detroit Jazz John Osler
As a painter and photographer, most of my art is two dimensional. I try to catch a moment, hopefully freezing time, That is all a photograph can do, so I try to paint the experience. However. jazz is constantly changing. Starting slowly, speeding up, a new thought inserted, complex sometimes, heartbreakingly simple the next moment. A wall of sound and then a single clear memorable note. That’s what makes it jazz, and hard to capture on canvas.
This past week I had a chance to spend some time with two young Detroiters who grew up surrounded by jazz. They confirmed my belief that early jazz experiences can have a powerful effect on your life. Both Megan Pouncy and Marcus Glenn have pursued careers immersed in the arts. Both freely talk about being surrounded by Detroit jazz and its effect on their approach to what they do. They speak not just of the freedom but also of the discipline that the music demands. Freedom of expression is deep in the DNA of jazz, powerful stuff for young persons being carefully guided through their early years.
I met both Megan and Marcus when I was hawking my book Detroit Jazz. Megan was helping me get exposure for my work at the Charles H. Wright Museum where she is surrounded by art. I met Marcus when we were listening to jazz at Del Pryor’s Gallery on International Jazz Day, and he asked me to sign a copy of the book. Only later did I realize how similar their paths are and how rooted they are in Detroit’s musical traditions, particularly jazz. I recall how similar their faces were as they talked about their passions. Their eyes told me that they have a secret. The secret is the power that comes from defining our lives for ourselves. The arts do that for you. The arts allow one to look and hear differently than anyone else. Hooray! No one can steal your uniqueness from you. You get to make choices in your art that reflect your personal view that comes deep from within you. Both of these young people joyfully acknowledge the influence of jazz.
Megan is a nationally known industrial designer who happens to play jazz piano and sing. She attended Renaissance High in Detroit where she was part of their jazz program. Megan and I talked about her good fortune to grow up in such a nurturing environment as Detroit. Detroit has a history of building musicians with a rock solid academic base that allows them to soar. A lesson for success.
Along the way she had a chance to become acquainted with Mulgrew Miller, the great post bop pianist who grew up in Greenwood, MS, where he was immersed in Delta blues and gospel music and like Megan, his love of music began in church. Mulgrew saw jazz as ” part progressive art and part folk art”.
Marcus Glenn describes the full experience of jazz in his art. He is a remarkably successful Detroit painter/artist whose subject has been mostly jazz music. Marcus’ art catches it all. He has a remarkable talent that shows his respect for his family and the musicians he depicts.
When you are enjoying a night of music at the Dirty Dog, take a moment and look at the faces of those around you. Jazz tends to light them up.
Here is an example of Marcus’ work commissioned by the Grammy Awards
Here are a couple of Marcus’paintings
There is no dispute that what drives Marcus’ creativity and success is Detroit and its music.