Music and painting going together like…

11:45 am - Posted by Rich

Music and painting going together like… Uh… You name the simile, it will fit fine.

When I draw and paint, I’m just about always listening to music, often with quieter classical guitar in the early morning hours, followed by mainstream jazz in the late morning to early afternoon, and then cranking up the volume for electric blues, which is jolting just when I’m starting to tire.

Yesterday was an all day Boswell Sisters fest, and if you are unfamiliar with the Boswell Sisters, do yourself a favor and listen to them a bit. They were from New Orleans, and made their best music between 1931 and ’35.

Being a fan of harmony singing, I love their amazingly tight and synchronized close vocal work, and even more their highly inventive arrangements of well-known (even then!) songs.   They would change the tempo mid-stream, add verses that were nearly always superior to the existing number, and do it all with great enthusiasm , skill, and jazz feeling at a time when the stiff singing was still in short, they were really great, and no one has come close since.

They were backed by the best musicians of the day, and the rhythms and textures provided by Eddie Lang (g) and Joe Venuti on violin are not unlike the textures I try to put into a painting; adding the unexpected when the mood strikes me.  And those harmony vocals are similar to me of complementary colors, and subtle shadings of one color.  So, the music and the watercolor art all go together nicely.

I did a piece entitled , “Record Label Jam (session)” some years back.   It was consciously working off of some great Sidney Bechet recordings from the late 30s, and early 40s.  They were well recorded and the timbres of the different instruments in contrapuntal lead work are easy to distinguish (even if Bechet towers over all of them with his searing soprano and inimitable vibrato).   I tried to emulate this music in “Record Label Jam” with the 7 musicians pictured all leaning and listening to each other.  The background of the piece is comprised of watercolor and sepia ink renderings of , what else, record labels from the 78 era, many of which were very well designed.

I first realized that art and music were “it” for me back in 1969, when I was 17, and it remains so to this day.  It’s what I resonate to; as natural to me as breathing.


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