Kindred Cool at MoCADA

December 29, 2009 2008 - articles, Culture, Travel & Heritage, Features

This exhibition was in 2008

In Summer 2008, the Museum of Contemporary African Disaporan Arts (MoCADA) welcomes Kindred Cool: Portraits inspired by the jazz friendship of Romare Bearden, Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray. The exhibition is produced byBrooklyn-based photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn (Calabar Magazine’s cultural writer) in conjunction with Up South, Inc., Kindred Cool highlights the jazz community through friendships where jazz is a substantial link.

Through photographic portraits, the images of Kindred Cool recreate the friendship of Romare Bearden, Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray by composing trios of individuals who also are bonded by jazz – each photograph will consist of three jazz-significant people. “It was important for me to show the diversity of what I like to call the ‘jazz society – not only musicians who create the music, but those individuals who engage in the music and perpetuate the culture through an array of ways. I also wanted to highlight people who are inspired by the music,” explains Barrayn, who received the inaugural Clarence Atkins Fellowship from the Jazz Journalist Association.

Kindred Cool subjects are a motley crew of jazz educators, vocal and instrumentalists, musicians, aficionados, journalists, publicists, band leaders and institution heads. Some names to be included in Kindred Cool are pianist, Ellis Marsalis; hip hop artist, Ladybug Mecca; pianist, Brian Jackson; trombonist, Dick Griffin; jazz-poet Louis Reyes Rivera; photographer, Gerald Cyrus; WBGO jazz radio personality, Sheila Anderson; producer, DJ Spooky; jazz pianist, Vijay Iyer; percussionist, Will Calhoun; singer and actress, Rhonda Ross; Columbia University jazz studies professor, Farah Jasmine Griffin; among many others of the ‘jazz society.’

Inspired by the friendship between three of America’s most prolific culture shapers: Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray and painter Romare Bearden, the exhibition shows these three intellectuals influences- visual art, literary fiction and the art of the essay. “Certainly, they were friends sharing many commonalities,” explains Barrayn, “their love for jazz, however, was palpable. Bearden, Ellison and Murray were certified jazzmen, riffing off one another’s ideas of Americaness, Blackness and what constitutes quality writing. Bearden’s affinity for the music was internalized and manifested through masterfully crafted paintings and collages. The cadence of Ellison’s and Murray’s sentences loudly echoes the sensibilities of a clever solo. Their major bond was American classical music: jazz. “I was introduced to the friendship between Bearden, Ellison and Murray through Horace Porter’s book Jazz Country: Ralph Ellison in America,” recalls Barrayn, who discovered the book as a student while at NYU in 2002. “I’ve always been moved by jazz, particularly as it relates to the Black experience in America. I wanted to make a contribution to the ever-continuing conversation on jazz.”

Photographed mostly in New York City, the images of Kindred Cool were also produced in New Orleans at important jazz locations like Frenchman Street in New Orleans and Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem. Barrayn’s work received national attention when her images were included in the Deborah Willis edited photo-anthology, “BLACK: A Celebration of a Culture” . She has been exhibited at The African American Museum Philadelphia, InterMedia Arts in Minneapolis, Danny Simmons’ Corridor Gallery, Art Gotham Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art, DC, just to name a few. Her journalism has taken her abroad to Asia, Africa and the Caribbean and her writing has appeared in Essence, The Source, Uptown, Complex, Studio: The Magazine of the Studio Museum in Harlem among other publications. She has curated exhibitions at the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Brooklyn Public Library.

For more information on the Kindred Cool exhibition or call (646) 573-2422 or email


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