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Posts Tagged ‘Dave Brubeck’

I came across this photo from the great Hungarian/French photographer Brassai and its impact hit me immediately. It’s a powerful image that is filled with emotional and narrative potentials.

Just a glimpse at it elicits some sort of response.

For me, it was like a scene from a bad dream. Running from some unseen menace through the dark in an unknown place. Hot and humid. Stumbling over cobblestones.

Maybe for you, it raises a different narrative. Maybe running heroically toward a dire situation.

Maybe not. Maybe it’s just a great photo with wonderful contrasts that is beautifully composed. Whatever the case, I like it and thoughts it raises in me.

I thought I’d try to find something that fit the image and came up with Blue Shadows in the Street from Dave Brubeck.I’m not sure this quite fits the bill but I like it. Hope you do as well. Have a great Sunday.

 

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GC Myers A Consideration of Grace  2002The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.

–William Saroyan

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This quote from William Saroyan caught me off guard when I came across it, mainly because it captured in a few words the lesson I had finally gleaned from years of  seeking this elusive beast called happiness.  And  a beast it was, a creature from mythology.  I had made it into a thing that had special powers and was like the Abominable Snowman— rumored to exist but seldom seen.

I discovered over time that this was a mistake.

I was picturing happiness as a once in a life thing, some sort of peak moment, when it was, in fact, just a small part of our being human.  The key in Saroyan’s short quote is the word knowing.  Once we begin to know who and what we are and are not, the need for peak moments subsides as we understand that there is a sort of happiness in the smaller moments of simply being.  It is not a gleeful, heart-pounding joy but a comfortable warm glow and an inner sense of satisfaction that often comes to you at what seems to be the most mundane of moments.

Stopping just now and looking out my studio window, for example.  A light snow is falling almost in time to Paul Desmond’s sax that is mingling with Dave Brubeck’s piano and I sip my coffee.  It is gray and almost gloomy but I feel this glow, this satisfaction in the moment.  It is not happiness as most might define the word .  It is just a moment of knowing that  I exist in the world,  that I am here to bear witness to the small wonders that take place around me in my small corner of the universe.

And that’s good enough.

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I chose the painting at the top, A Consideration of Grace from back in 2002, because there is something like the feeling I am describing today in it for me.  Maybe it can be described as grace.  I don’t know…

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Blue II- Joan Miro

When I’m painting, which is most of the time, there are occasional shifts in the work from day to day.  Sometimes they just happen without any forethought, an adding of an element here or there to change the balance of a composition or the touch of a color that may have been absent from the palette for some time. 

 
Then there are conscious decisions made in advance of coming work, such as the decsion ot work in a certain size or medium.  I came across some older work lately in my archives that made me make such a consious decision.  It was a group of  mainly nocturnal scenes done in deep gem-like transparent  blues.  They have a stark and moody feel and, while I always have really thought highly of them, have been out of my repertoire for some time. I’ve got to make an effort to revisit this work and see what emerges.  There’s something different in approaching a painting as an examination of  solely color rather than as harmonizing a landscape’s composition.  The focus on color seems to create its own mood and drama, one that comes across off the wall even in the starkest of compositions.
 
We shall see.  For now, here’s a video that speaks to the subject for me.  It’s Dave Brubeck’s Bluette played over the wondeful work of Joan Miro.  Enjoy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The other day I wrote in this blog about the process of painting which brought a comment about appreciating the physicality of painting in person.  It immediately brought to my mind the paintings of Joan Miro, the great Catalan painter/sculptor.

I have always been greatly attracted to his paintings having seen them countless times in books and in popular culture, such as on the cover of Dave Brubeck’s  jazz classic Take Five.  There was something very enticing about the imagery and the geometry of his work, something that that was symbolic and beautiful at once.  However, I never wanted to know too much about the paintings, never wanted to try to read into every symbol.  I just loved the way they felt on the eye.

Dark joy.

But my main memory, and the one I returned to when I read the comment about seeing the physical nature of work in person, is of seeing a Miro painting in person for the first time.  When I saw it across the museum hall, I was excited.  It was like seeing an old friend after a long time, even though I had only seen the work in print.

But as I got closer I began to feel a dull pang of disappointment.  Up close, the surfaces were flat and dull, the paint thin.  It was still striking imagery but the feel on my eye was different and I left feeling a little different about his paintings.  A feeling that has remained with me even though I rationally accept it as his style and have come to more fully appreciate it.

I suppose it was simply the difference between expectation and the reality of actually seeing the work.

As I said, I have come to terms with the way they appear up close and understand that was how he worked, how his mind best translated to his chosen media.  That’s enough for me and far outweighs my own initial expectations and reaction.

The imagery still stuns me.

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They showed the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors on television last night.  It’s always an interesting show, highlighting the careers of some of the most enduring and venerable performers and entertainers.  A virtual who’s who of our culture over the last half century.

For me, this years group of honorees was as good as it gets across the board.  You had high culture with operatic hero Grace Bumbry, jazz culture with the ever hip piano of Dave Brubeck, rock and roll with Bruce Springsteen, the world of comedy from Mel Brooks and the ultimate in dramatic acting from Robert De Niro.  What an incredible group.

One of the highlights for me was the absolute look of joy on Dave Brubeck’s face as his four sons joined in to play a medley of his compositions.  The night fell on his 89th birthday and he seems to be a testament to the longevity of those who are able to follow their passion.  I don’t know squat about jazz but what I feel is that Brubeck’s work has appeal across the spectrum of listeners out there.  There’s enough stellar playing and complicated rhythms to satisfy real jazz fans yet it’s incredibly accessible to the less savvy, like me.  Great stuff.

Of course, the other was the tribute to Bruce Springsteen.  I’ve been a big fan for well over 30 years and it’s been interesting to see how he has transformed into an elder statesman of  popular music.  I think that Jon Stewart hit it right on the head for me when he spoke of Bruce’s willingness to empty the tank for his audience every night as being the thing that most struck him and influenced him as a young fan.  I know seeing Bruce when I was younger made me hungry to find something, anything, that would make me feel that same passion and commitment in my own life.  Something where, like Bruce, I could give everything I had.  The medium wasn’t important.  It was all about the spirit of the effort, the total dedication to your own vision.  That is always in the back of mind when I see him, even today.

I remember writing a letter in the 70’s (long before e-mail) to Dave Marsh, the Rolling Stone editor who had just written an early bio of Bruce, describing how the music affected me.  I was working in a factory and couldn’t see anything on the horizon but when I listened to Bruce I was no longer a loser, a factory drone.  I had hope.  It was very much how Jon Stewart described his own experience.  Marsh responded with a lovely handwritten letter, that I still prize today, telling me how he was moved by my letter.  That, too, served as inspiration to search further, to give more.

Thanks, Bruce, for the inspiration.  You deserve this honor…

Here’s nice version of My City of Ruins from night’s show, performed by Eddie Vedder.  Enjoy.

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