July 4, 2008

"NYC Jazz"

Oil on museum quality, archival ampersand gessobord™ panel - 5” x 7”

Maybe it was having such fun with the silhouette in the little nude on the staircase that lead me to this sax player. I came across this image recently in a box of old slides that I had taken in New York's Washington Square Park back in the 70's. I like the crispness of the figure and his ax against the diffused background. He ain't Boots Randolph, but I remember he blew a mean sax. Odd that after all the years I've been going to New Orleans, I pick a guy in the Village as my first jazz player. Go figure.

I set my ipod on "genre - jazz" while painting this piece, which was slightly disconcerting, as it picked up all the jazz stuff including all the jazzy Christmas albums. I was too engrossed in my painting to change the setting and allowed Dexter Gordon and Wynton Marsalis to blow White Christmas and Winter Wonderland. It was odd to hear these tunes in July in Baltimore. Music, perhaps even more than smells, can dredge up old memories. I have never painted in silence and as anyone can tell you, my musical taste is all over the place. What wafts out of the studio frequently drives my wife crazy. During this sometimes seasonal interlude I heard the opening licks of "Hindustan" performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Here come those memories. Twice a year we met my Uncle Bob and his wife Joyce in New Orleans. The last day of our visit would invariably find us having jazz brunch somewhere, be it Commander's Palace, Arnaud's or wherever. Bob played a wind instrument in the Navy band and was stationed in NYC in the late 50's. Though classically trained, he knew his jazz, so when the trio of musicians would come up to our table to solicit requests, Bob would, without fail, ask for "Hindustan." If one of the musicians was of a certain age, he and Bob would smile the knowing smile of recognition, and he would dig back in his dusty repertoire and have a go and the others would follow along, delighted in not having to play "When the Saints go Marching in" for the 10th time that morning.
Another "Bobism" was "close enough for jazz." Not said disparagingly, but referring to the improvisational nature of the music. If it is played too close to the original melody, jazz ceases to be jazz and is merely the original song. The laid back and relaxed attitude of jazz musicians also factors into the expression. Although he blew the english horn and oboe, I suspect Uncle Bob could wind a mean licorice stick (a.k.a. clarinet) if he wanted to, back in the day. He warned me to beware of girls that knew how to use chopsticks, as that meant they hung around with jazz musicians and artists, Chinese restaurants being cheap fare and often open very late or all night. Words to live by.


Diana Moses Botkin said...

This painting and your remarks remind me of once when I visited my sister in NYC. The morning I left to go catch the train, I walked past a sax player on the street who was just wailing away. It was Sunday morning and hardly anyone was around but the guy was playing his heart out.

Mark Adams said...

Thanks, Diana.

There's nothing like a lone sax, be it in the subway, on a street corner, or in Jackson Square, to conjure up old memories. I have a feeling that some Coltrane will be playing in the studio today.

Diane said...

mark, this one blows me away (pun intended) I love the contrasts, the reflections of his glasses, the shining metal sax... and the shadows