On this blog, a companion to "ArtSoPotent," I will write about the connection between visual art and other art forms, including cinema, dancing, poetry, and specifically music. This space will also serve to display images of my commercial work: Calligraphy, Collage, Note Cards, Hand-painted boxes, Handmade books,and other mixed-media works.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why I Love Jazz


Because it is art. Like art it has colors, rhythms and lines. Like art it is free, allowing so many creative directions in which to flow. Or skitter. Or skip. Or skat.

Its colors are many. Ranging in mood from blue to green to red to orange. And even purple. The colors set the mood. The rhythms set the mood. The lines set the mood. But it's a funny thing about the lines. They never are straight. They wave and wobble. And sometimes they walk pigeon-toed or bow-legged or knock-kneed. But they have a lot of fun walking like that. Just like art. Lines are fun. If you choose to have fun with them.

I had to grow into loving jazz. I had to get to know it by spending time with it. By listening to what it had to say. I had to make it my friend until we finally became lovers. In my younger years there were specific jazz tunes that I enjoyed, but I limited my listening because I was somewhat suspicious of jazz. It was abstract music that didn't immediately explain itself to my impatience - especially the instrumentals.

Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzerald were familiar voices when I was growing up. Also, I liked a few artists like Gabor Zabo, Cal Tjader and Ramsey Lewis. I also liked Pharoh Sanders and Leon Thomas. But I avoided John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk because I found them quite intimidating.

Miles got into my blood one night when I was feeling low. I was frustrated because it seemed like no one understood the scope of the problem I was experiencing at the time. For some reason, I decided to listen to Miles' "Blue" album that belonged to a friend.

As I listened, the music was extremely emotional to me. It seemed to speak to me. Despite its sad tone, it was exquisitely beautiful. The instruments were soothing, embracing me and drawing me into another world. That night was a breakthrough for me. Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk became favorites, but I will admit I still am only marginally attuned to John Coltrane. Perhaps I need to listen closer.

In addition to those mentioned, some of my favorite jazz artists are Errol Gardner, Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock, Sadao Watanabe, Benny Goodman, Max Roach, Abby Lincoln, Ella Fitzgerald, Ahmad Jamal, Kenny Garrett, Chick Corea, Michael Franks, Carmen McRae and many more.

My favorite jazz instruments are piano, soprano sax and alto sax, exactly in that order. Fusion, bee-bop and swing are just a few favorite genres that immediately come to mind. My absolute favorite tunes are "So What" by Miles Davis and "But Not For Me" by Ella Fitzgerald.

The primary reason I love jazz is because it is the flip side of art, provoking the gamut of emotions while stirring the soul. As well, it is earth music bringing to mind stimulating visual imagery relative to just as many emotions.

Like art, jazz has the ability to provide escape from a sometimes cruel world. And for that reason it is a best friend. And a lover.