What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
In 2019 a parcel arrived for my attention from Venezuela. A small - around 20 x 20 cm - square book, an anonymous shadowy little thing with the title printed in textures of black against the black background of its cover.
Almost closing in on itself, seemingly not wanting to make a sound, but at the same time sending out subtle signals. Visual tapping sounds.
Almost imperceptible pleas for attention.
Not realising what was about to greet me, I opened one of the most powerful and affecting books that I have yet to encounter.
No Me Mires! (Don't Look At Me!) by Ana Maria Ferris is the recreation of a nightmare, a photographic essay born of trauma and the subsequent desire for closure.
On a quiet evening - much like any other - armed men broke into Ferris' family home, bound and beat them, then emptied the house of whatever they desired.
A terrifying ordeal the memories of which refused to be laid to rest until - it seems - the tale had been told, and Pandora's Box closed.
Or at least contained between the covers of a book.
Life is for the living
In 2022 another parcel arrived, this time a much larger package. As I cautiously unwrapped the contents, rather like the briefcase in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, a warm glow (this time silver) emanated.
It seems thankfully that life goes on.
Free Jazz is Ferris' follow up to No Me Mires! A book about life, survival and celebration.
A book about living.
Much larger in format - around 30 x 30 cm - the dark shadows and night terrors have been banished, hopefully exorcised once and for all and in its place a positive energy unleashed, and allowed - in fact positively encouraged - to course through its pages.
Everything about Free Jazz sings of affirmation and of the appreciation that comes from hungry eyes, open and eager to rejoice in even the smallest details of daily life.
Details that in a very real sense, could so easily have been denied them.
Free Form Jazz
“a form of jazz marked especially by an abandonment of preset chord progression and a lack of melodic pattern”
Ferris’ Free Jazz is a cornucopia of ideas, a barrage of creative notes so worthy of the art form referenced, right through to the acknowledgement of the albums that formed its inspiration, evident in the book’s 12 inch square format. This a visual embrace of the musical art form.
An attention grabbing softcover with silver mirrored surface, complete with a qr code that enables you to call up a soundscape. An aural accompaniment to the energy on the pages.
A book full of summer presented in soft monochrome.
Images which themselves are printed on beautifully tactile French folded Munken Lynx paper.
There is a huge imagination at work here and the use of the phrase Free Jazz in the title is also a description of the book’s pulse and flow, of its very DNA.
To this end the improvisational spirit of the medium is celebrated by using artificial intelligence to generate a random edit and sequence from Ferris’ archive for each of the copies in the entire run of 300.
By employing such technology Ferris has surrendered editorial control, but in doing so has ensured that every copy is unique, with each rhythm and riff as fresh and unpredictable as that of the artists who lift their instruments and armed with only the finite assurances of just a start and end point, create magic and paint masterpieces in sound every time they step on stage.
The notes in my copy redolent with optimism and an eagerness to move on.
The leaves on palms that wave imperceptibly to ships at sea. Huge liners - water bound cities - full of privileged joy and merriment.
A shop window teasing the trappings of the good life.
Children at play, "Spidey" crouching on the lawn.
And of course there will always be one image that stays with you above all others. In this instance a pair of little legs barely filling their stripy tights and ending in a pair of socks, even larger. Little feet swimming like tiny fish in an oversized tank.
Here is humour, normality and the hope of better times ahead.
Your memory will of course be completely different to mine.
After all this is my personal recording.
As to the mirrored cover, Ana Maria had this to say
“...when I see myself in it I am reminded that I am alive, with the necessary drive to move forward..."
Yes, life is for the living.
Free Jazz is published in an edition of 300 copies.
To purchase, please DM Ana Maria via her Instagram account @anamariaferris.
Or by email email@example.com
No Me Mires! was reviewed for The Od Review and can also be found on this site.