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Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

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Practically all great artists accept the influence of others. But… the artist with vision… by integrating what he has learned with his own experiences… molds something distinctly personal.

-Romare Bearden

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This morning, I came across this quote from Romare Bearden, a favorite of mine. It reminded me of a conversation I had with another artist last night at the opening for the Masterpieces exhibit at the West End Gallery.

This artist, who has a formidable talent level that was obvious to see in their past work, is in the midst of breaking loose creatively in a way that is establishing a distinct voice. It’s exciting to see the work blossom, thrilling to see an artist take their toolbag of acquired skills and transform them into something unique and personal, something that moves them out and away from their teachers and influences.

It is interesting to witness this artist’s enthusiasm for the new work balloon in a way that creates even more enthusiasm. Each new piece pushes the next forward and forms more and more energy. And that personal voice becomes stronger.

It’s a rare thing to experience and a hard thing to describe. But it is certainly fun to watch when it does happen.

To go with the Bearden piece at the top, Jazz II, from 1980, I thought I’d share the Miles Davis classic So What. Seems like a good way to start yet another dark gray Saturday.

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This morning, I was looking at the wall in my studio that is directly in front of the desk where I write this as well as the easels where I paint. It’s a large stone fireplace that is about fourteen feet wide made from local creekstone. There are bookshelves built into the wall, the shelves formed by thick slabs of bluestone. There are also three half round ledges that jut out from the wall that were obviously placed to show off tchotchkes.

I have a number of personal things littering the wall. There are several of the carvings from the years before I began to paint. An old snowshoe. A carved crow from a well known regional sculptor shares one of the half round shelves with a cheap carving of Don Quixote that my sister gave me as a Christmas present when I was still a kid . There’s a Buddhist prayer wheel given to me by a friend along with a thumb piano made from koa wood, picked up on a trip to Hawaii many, many years ago.

But in the center is a painting from a few years back, an abstract comprised of colorful blocks. I knew when I did this piece that it was strictly mine and wasn’t surprised that it didn’t find a home. There are several such pieces here in my main painting space. Maybe it’s the fact that I did them just for my own satisfaction that make them favorites of mine. I know this painting catches my eye several times a day and there is definitely a sense of satisfaction in each glance.

Even with that, I don’t know that I would do such a piece again. If I did, the scale of the painting would be much larger, maybe four or five feet square, so that its colors and forms had the size to make a real statement. A bold yelp whereas this small painting is a whispered wish. But that whisper is mine and I wish on it every day.

Below is a post from back when it was made. The quote totally aligns with how I see the key to creativity– finding that medium and process that corresponds with the way one thinks and feels.

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GC Myers- Jazz ( Song One)The artist is a man who finds that the form or shape of things externally corresponds, in some strange way, to the movements of his mental and emotional life.

Graham Collier 

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I have been working on dream inspired patterned forms, as I’ve noted here several times recently. I have been incorporating into the layers that make up my skies in simple landscapes where they serve to give added depth and texture. It works really well in that context and it would be easy to just use it in that way.

But there is something about some of them that make me just push them to the forefront alone without masking them with any representational forms over them. Something beyond narrative. Elemental. Like it is somehow tied to my own internal shapes and forms and patterns.

I was thinking this when I came across the quote at the top from the late jazz musician/composer Graham Collier. It made so much sense because I think that is, in general, the attraction of art  for me– it’s an external harmony of internal elements.

I didn’t know much about Collier who died in 2011. He was a bassist/bandleader/composer who was the first British grad of the Berklee College of Music. He played around the world and also wrote extensively on jazz but he still wasn’t on my radar. While I like jazz, my knowledge, as it is in many things, is pretty shallow. So I decided that I should listen to some of Collier’s music.

The first song I heard was titled  Song One (Seven-Four) and it just clicked for me. It was so familiar and seemed to be right in line with the piece at the top, a 12″ by 12″ painting on masonite panel. It made me think about the connection with music, how sounds often take the form of shapes and colors in the minds of both musicians and listeners.

Again, very elemental.

So I began to think of these newer pieces as music. It creates a context that makes sense for my mind, one that gives me a way of looking at the work without seeking representational forms. It’s an exciting thing for me and I look forward to some newer explorations in this realm in the near future. For Graham Collier’s clarification, I am calling the piece at the top Jazz ( Song One).  Here it is :

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It’s gray and rainy this morning. It’s the same forecast for the next several days here and I am kind of happy about that. While it may put a damper on tourists and sun-seekers, the rain refreshes the pond and cools the forest floor. The vegetation perks up with the greens getting a bit brighter and vibrant. After reading about the many temperature records being broken around the globe in recent weeks (over 90° above the Arctic circle and the highest temp ever recorded on the African continent!) I am all for anything that cools it down for a while.

I though for this Sunday morning’s musical selection I would choose a piece called Oslo from a contemporary Norwegian jazz musician, Mathias Eick, that sounds kind of cool. For me, when I hear the name Oslo I imagine snow and a chill in the air. I may be mistaken in that assumption as I find after checking that it’s near 80° there at the moment.

But I will still cling to my misguided assumption for the moment if only to feel an illusion of coolness. I threw in a new painting at the top, Cool Rising, that is part of my current show at the West End Gallery, to complete the illusion.

Have a cool Sunday…

 

 

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American Jacob Lawrence was a great painter who worked as a Social Realist, capturing the experience of the African-American community in the 20th century in a number of different series of paintings and prints featuring his strong colors and often abstract forms.  His work is powerful and engaging across the board, giving the his work a universal appeal that culture and place. I seldom see anything from Lawrence, even among those pieces that don’t move me as much as others, that doesn’t have purpose and something to say.

It is work of humanity.

It’s work that comes across as instantly identifiable as his whenever I see it. His forms and colors and compositions create a unique and individual voice that speaks clearly to the viewer, easily transmitting feeling and emotion from the image to the eye and mind of the viewer. I believe that’s a quality every artist craves and Lawrence has loads of it.

Lawrence was born in Atlantic City in 1917 and lived in New York City from his teens until around 1970 when he moved to Seattle area, where he was a professor of art at the University of Washington for many years after. He died in 2000. His wife, Gwendolyn Knight, was also an artist.

If you’re not familiar with Lawrence’s work, I urge you to look into it a bit more. For now, here’s some of his work below along with a nice video of his work set to Blue Train from jazz great John Coltrane. Enjoy…

 

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Labor Day weekend and I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, figuring that I was due a break because at heart I always considered myself more under the label of worker than artist. Even in my terminology paintings are more often referred to as works or pieces. And when I was starting out I felt my ability to labor, focused and on task, wold provide a big boost in pursuing this path. And it did.

So Labor Day remains a favorite holiday for me in theme. I like the idea of work and the meaning and purpose behind it. I like the history of the holiday, how the growth of  Labor and Unions being celebrated coincided with the growth of this nation and the middle class, how these movements gave us the protections and guarantees that we all too often take for granted these days. We forget that these  things were not given to the workers– they were demanded and fought for.

Bled and died for.

So have a great weekend. Picnic. Parade. To my friends in Texas, you don’t have to be reminded about work– you have much ahead of you. But take a minute and think about the work you do, the life you live and those earlier people who worked and fought hard so that you might have a better life than their own.

Here’s a great piece of classic jazz from Cannonball Adderley. It is titled Work Song. Jazz might not be your thing but you have to admit that these guys are working it. Oh, and the little piece of work at the top is a new small painting, Sound & Silence, that is now at the West End Gallery.

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Quiet morning and I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out what I want to play today for this Sunday morning music break. Spent a lot of time listening to a lot of different things. I would say it was too much time spent but it’s been enjoyable just taking the time and focusing on the music rather than having it as a background sound while I work.

And I think there are benefits in just really zoning in on the music without distraction, hearing the edge of the notes and the path of the rhythm. The individual elements become clearer and stronger, something that is often lost when there are a thousand other thoughts and sensations running through the mind. When I’m in the studio sometimes the sounds in the background become a drone that becomes a thread that interweaves with whatever thoughts are guiding the task at hand.

And that’s a shame because I know that I often miss the crucial part of the music in this miasma of thought, the part that inspires, that takes you to another place and time. The transcendent part.

This morning I’ve chosen the jazz standard ‘Round Midnight performed by its composer, the legendary Theloni0us Monk. I’m no jazz aficionado. Can’t tell you a lot about the history of the genre or the importance of different tracks or performances or even who ranks highest among those who do know. But I do know that Thelonious Monk has iconic standing in jazz, as does this song. This is a performance by Monk and his quartet from 1966.

I can only say that I like what I like. It’s my main criteria for judging most everything. Sometimes it goes along with the consensus of the experts and sometimes it just suits my own tastes. Here, I think it’s just plain good stuff that I can listen to with pure focus. Have a listen and hopefully you will have great day afterward.

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We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife
The way we danced until three
The way you changed my life
No, no they can’t take that away from me
No, they can’t take that away from me

–George and Ira Gershwin, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, 1937

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I was looking at the new painting shown at the top, 10″ by 30″ on canvas, trying to determine what it was saying to me.  For some reason, those lines from a favorite Gershwin song kept popping into my mind–We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love/Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of…

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the way the song tied to the image. I think I’ll keep it that way in my mind. You can’t take that away from me.

The song, You Can’t Take That Away From Me, was written by the Gershwins and first performed by Fred Astaire in the 1937 movie Shall We Dance. George Gershwin died two months after the film’s release. Since that time the song has become one of the great entries to the American songbook, performed by a seemingly endless list of jazz and pop singers. There are so many great versions of this song by some of the greatest vocalists of all time that it’s hard to pick one that might stand out for everybody.

For myself, I always come back to the Billie Holiday covers. She started performing the song in 1937 and I like those early performances but the one below from 1957 is a favorite, a great version with top notch players backing her.

Give a listen. And pay heed to those deep memories that no one can take away from you.

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