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Morgan Monceaux: Jazz Artist

A very cool cat with an inborn jazz sensibility, Morgan Monceaux is the author of several books about the cultural and art experience of black America. In 1994 he wrote “Jazz: My Music, My People” to introduce children to jazz.

His illustrations fly off the page with their jewel-tone vibrancy and uniqueness. Monceaux also adds text as an artistic element. Example: jazz singer Nina Simone is encircled by the words “high priestess of soul” while curlicues of red, blue and yellow swirl behind and around her.

Monceaux painted Sarah Vaughan, whose sound reminded him of his mother’s voice and made him feel warm inside. Nina Simone, he said, set the pace for his understanding of the 1960s and the protest movement. And Nat King Cole, “one of the coolest male singers of his time,” brought jazz into the homes of millions of people with his own TV show.

“I have a love of the female voice,” he said in a recent interview. “This book was a way of remembering my mother who gave me a love of jazz. It gives a history of jazz to show how it has impacted today’s music.”

“Bessie Smith” by Morgan Monceaux with permission.

By Debbie Burke

Debbie Burke is the author of The Poconos in B Flat and the upcoming Glissando: A Story of Love, Lust and Jazz (Waldorf Publishing, February 2018). She lives in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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