Expressionist Portraits Capture the Fiery Transience of Jazz Performances

On Monday, Flavorwire published an article discussing the life and work of New York artist Jonathan Glass, among others. Each of Glass’ works is a mimetic encapsulation of a particular jazz performance that you’ll likely never see (with the exception of occasional, jerky YouTube footage). Glass spends his evenings going to New York’s jazz clubs and music halls and, for the duration of the concerts, sketching expressionistic portraits that capture the ephemeral fervor and movement of each show — while being both permanent and inanimate. From icons like B.B. King to up-and-coming avant-garde acts like RighteousGIRLS to the Donny McCaslin quartet — most recently featured on David Bowie’s Blackstar — Glass’ work sees these musicians and their unique styles translated into feelings, then reconstituted on the page.

“I feel like I’m learning from the music as I’m drawing, and that’s leading me to improvise in the way I do. I have to feel the music — I don’t say I want to capture a likeness. You find your way along the way,” he says.

Glass’ encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history — and the personas of its key players — is on full display here, and for this slideshow he’s contributed insight both anecdotal and informative about his subjects, and about the particular concerts at which he sketched them with pen and ink.