Sunday, October 11, 2009

AOJ - Lester Young

Lester Willis Young
1909 - 1959
American Tenor Saxophonist

18" X 24"
Oil on Canvas

It's been a long time since I posted. Or painted things to post here. Or post-painted. But here we have Lester Young. According to Wiki, Lester was responsible for much of the "hipster ethos" surrounding jazz. Then Wiki did not explain himself. Maybe it's because of the pork-pie hat? Maybe it's because Mingus wrote one of the saddest, most hauntingly beautiful songs, "Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat" about LY? Maybe it's the drank himself to death after a doomed marriage, failure to meet commercial success, lack of money ethos so popular among jazz cats?

I don't know. I do know that he was a genius, that he played with nearly everyone who was anyone and that he always looked cooler than anyone else.

Check it:

How cool is that video?

Friday, July 10, 2009

AOJ.......Billy Cobham

William C. Cobham
(1944 - )
Panamanian-American Drummer

oil on canvas
(18" X 24")

When I was 13 I got this Dennis Chambers instructional video. For those of you who don't know, DC joined Mk III of Parliament Funkadelc at the ripe age of 18 (taking over for the late great Tiki Fulwood, eventually...after some other dudes). If you ever watched DC play you will realize how stupid silly it was for me to even fathom following anything this guy was doing on his "instructional" video. In fact, it wasn't so much an instructional video as it was a "you will never be able to play like this so don't bother, asshole...duuuuuuur" video. I was mad about how good this guy was playing and at the time believed that he had achieved some sort of next level drumming nirvana shit. Also, at the time I think I was busy learning how to play along to Camper Van Beethoven was a bummer.

And then, much later in life, I watched a clip of Billy Cobham playing with John Mclauglin in '72 and I realized that DC had worshipped at this guy's alter. I guess what I'm saying is that BC was a true originator and people like DC and every other GOSPEL CHOPS drummer that comes along owe him a tip of the 'ol kangol.

Don't believe me?

Monday, June 8, 2009

AOJ/NC Musician #9...John Coltrane

John William Coltrane
1926 - 1967
American Saxophonist
Born in Hamlet, NC

oil on panel
22" x 30"

What can I say that hasn't already been exhaustively covered about this Giant Step? Opened the 4th Dimension in Free Jazz? First name that comes to people's minds when they think of the tenor saxophone? Wrote A Love Supreme? Brought Elvin Jones into the spotlight? These are all minor feats compared to the guy's total achievements but all important things nonetheless*.

I went to Hamlet once to paint a mural in the Mental Health ward of the Sandhills Regional hospital. That was a hoot. And by "hoot" I mean TOTALLY INSANE. I did meet a fantastic Lumbee Indian in there who was super sweet. Unfortunately he had tried to commit suicide 3 times and was convinced he would probably do it again. As was policy, he could only stay in there for 2 days. He told me he was a painter and that he'd been thinking of doing more work. I told his wife to contact me when he got out and maybe I could help find him some work. I never heard from them.

As you might imagine, Hamlet is a tiny tiny town with a pretty sore economy. I did drive past Coltrane's house though. And the Rockingham Speedway which is like a colossal ghost town. Pretty eerie seeing something that big completely desolate.

(*As is becoming commonplace here I don't delve to deep into any of these people's histories/time lines. That's what that little box in the top right hand of your screen is for.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

AOJ...Art Blakey

Arthur Blakey
1919 - 1990
American Jazz Drummer, Composer, Bandleader

18" X 24"
acrylic on canvas (This was a test. I don't think i'll be doing acrylics again anytime soon. Stuff dries mad crazy, yo.)

In the words of Pete Townsend (talking about Mose Allison but nonetheless) "he was a jazz sage.." Not to mention one of the hardest working drummers of all time.

And talk about a guy who knows some, Blakey played with ALL the all-time greats. He co-founded the Jazz Messengers with the brilliant Horace Silver and enlisted the likes of Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard...Jesus, the list goes on and on. Maybe you know his work with Carolina boy Thelonious Monk? How about Bud Powell? Miles Davis?

If you own any jazz records then chances are he is playing drums on one of them. Unless you like Kenny G and shit in which case I can't help you.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

NC Musician #8 - Max Roach

Maxwell Lemuel Roach
1927 - 2007
American Jazz Drummer
Born in Newland, NC

oil on wood
12" X 15"

When I was a kid I used to read the magazine Drums and Drumming. I don't think it's still around today...wait, maybe it was Modern Drummer? Anyway, I remember there being a cover story on Max Roach and the caption read "The man who changed the way you play drums." At the time I was probably playing drums along to the Cure and 7Seconds so I wasn't quite sure how he changed the way I played drums but I remembered the caption nonetheless.

Now that I understand things a little bit better I've come to realize that Max Roach invented a style of playing (along with with Kenny Clarke) where time signatures are driven by the pattens on the ride cymbal rather than the bass drum, which was common at the time. This probably means nothing to most people but the point is nowadays everyone plays this way. Almost every style of drumming contains some derivative of this technique.

In addition to that, Max played with nearly every big timer in the biz. I really like this painting.

Another breadwinner from the Great North State!

Monday, May 18, 2009

AOJ....Billie Holiday

Eleanora Fagan AKA Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
American singer

Oil on canvas
36" x 48"

Lady Day, the Queen of Song. She stood out from contemporaries like Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington because of her expressive style and dramatic delivery. Known for her unique phrasing and shaping of melodies. Also known for being a raging alcoholic and heroin addict. And even though she was long suffering in that department, had a slew of additional personal problems that led to multiple abusive relationships and eventually jail time, she was unarguably one of the most talented and influential singers in the history of American music. Her influence on pop singing cannot be stressed enough.

Monday, May 11, 2009

NC Musician #6(66) - Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack
1937 -
American singer and pianist
Born in Black Mountain, NC

22" X 30"
oil on wood

My Mom, when first hearing the Fugees version (if you can call it that) of "Killing Me Softly" exclaimed "Well, I don't like what they've done to this song at all. Why would you want to change the original?

And why would you really? I mean RF was a true queen of jazzy soul and RnB when she broke onto the scene. And she totally killed it with that tune. Did you know she won an Oscar for Best Song in 1974 for that jam. And did you know she is also a highly accomplished jazz and classical pianist? And check out this craziness ripped straight off the Wikipedia site:

"In November 1968, she recorded 39 song demos in less than 10 hours." Who the fuck does that?!?! And we're talking songs here...not blip bleeps and tape loops...real versechorusversechorusbridgechorus songs.

Oh yeah she also wrote that song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" which makes every woman in the world cry. Total babe too.