Picks and Pans Review: Jazz: My Music, My People

updated 12/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Morgan Monceaux

Monceaux, a college graduate and a Vietnam War Navy veteran, was homeless on the streets of Manhattan before he began the project that brought him his initial recognition: painting a portrait of every American President. He has now created a second set of portraits, this time of jazz legends in the same idiosyncratic folk-art style.

In many cases, Monceaux doesn't achieve (or try for) a facial likeness, but each portrait has an individual heft and some (a saturnine, longhaired Miles Davis; an acute, withering Nina Simone) are startlingly evocative. But the strongest paintings in the book are not the portraits but something new for Monceaux: a series of semi-representational paintings that seem to be personal responses to one or another of the jazz greats. These are as colorful, kinetic and imaginative as the music itself. (Knopf, $18)

From Our Partners