It’s a special privilege to get to know artists that one admires. For me, even more so when they’re doing very fine work in another discipline. Lenny Marcus (at the keys in this photo) has been making terrific jazz music literally for decades, and has earned all the praise he’s received over the years from seasoned experts who know way more than I ever will about jazz music. It’s been my great fortune to hear him perform dozens of times in recent years. So it was an extra honor to have him visit my art exhibition yesterday, and more so engage in a stimulating discussion with Lenny and his spouse about bringing more jazz to our community. There’s a certain kindred knowing in such dialogues that transcends words; I savored it in every way.
Rick Eckberg is on the upright bass and Larry Scott is there holding down the fort on the drums in the back. Lonnie Jackson is on percussion in the lower right. I met Lonnie over 25 years ago when I was coordinating presentations to relate to an exhibit of West African arts. He’s been hand-drumming for longer than that, and both his skillful rhythms and affable manner are known among musicians in our area. He’s always had a quick and kind smile, nothing but good words about others, and revealed a soft, generous heart in my times hanging with him.
It’s very moving for me to hear these accomplished artists perform. I especially love when a song will simmer for a bit and then reach those special moments where their unique contributions as artists all gel into a flowing, multifaceted, lush woven wave of sound. It’s like all those years of practicing and performing suddenly coalesce within a song. They seem to get within each other’s individual soulful sound, yet do so in such a way that only enhances the magical and undefinable whole. I find the entire experience utterly wonderful and most inspiring. In my paintings I often aspire to integrate disparate elements in a similar way, despite differences, discover and reveal harmonies. Sort of an analogy for social healing, maybe even of the natural dynamics of life.
I deeply appreciate the rigor of their discipline. In many ways the way my approach to making a painting emulates my understanding of what these folks offer: a mix of spontaneity within a structured medium, a willingness to trust one’s instincts and take creative risks, yet also seek (and achieve) harmony in the whole. I can’t claim any deep intellectual understanding of jazz, but it seems to me very much like what I am after in my “wordless” abstract paintings. It requires an open-heartedness and a trust in oneself and beyond one’s self, while aiming for a beautiful experience that transcends words. Like all great art it reaches something within me that goes beyond thinking, touches my heart, and lifts my spirit. My hat’s off with much gratitude to Lenny, Lonnie, Larry, and Rick (who I heard perform together last night) and all the many inspired and inspiring musicians out there, playing their hearts out to elevate us all.