All That Jazz
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The Grass Valley Graphics Group, many of whom are also musicians and appreciators of jazz, has a history of creating art on a Jazz Theme. The Group participated in the recent Harlem Renaissance Art Tour which began at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and went on throughout the country.
R.C. Trice is well-known for his ceramic bags of Jazz Greats. Tom X produced the memorable series of New Orleans Jazz Musicians.
E.J. Gold has produced portraits of a hundred musicians – some for television shows – and is well-known for his Gesture Musician Pastels, elegant renderings of musicians, now produced as prints and notecards, including “Getting Into The Swing of Things” on display at Empire Music.
The Grass Valley Graphics Group has a long history of collaborative projects including representing the U.S. throughout the former Soviet Union in the 1990's the USA/USSR Art Tour.
From an Interview with Wynton Marsalis
by Robbert C. Trice
On the evening of November 24th, a few minutes before he went on stage at the Veterans Memorial Building in Grass Valley, I had the good fortune to be able to talk with jazz great Wynton Marsalis. I represented a collaborative group of Nevada County artists, a local radio station, and a local art magazine who sought to further the splash Mr. Marsalis had made by coming to our rural community – Robert Trice
Trice: Why is it important to teach our young people about music and art?
Marsalis: Because the Art and the Music, like all of the arts, interpret the mythology of our country, of an era and an epoch. They are really a painless way to teach many fundamentals. And it’s ‘cause there are always new artists that those fundamentals are always being amended. They are a way to train the senses, and to participate in the human experience and in the heritage of mankind.
Trice: Do you see any way in which music and visual arts can come together like they have here?
Marsalis: This gig is extremely hip. I’ve never been in a place like this before – where the music is with things like that (the art) ... This was beautiful. It made the space a whole lot more alive! Jazz, jazz themes, different styles of everybody’s art ... a feeling of community where everybody is coming together in a meaningful way. This is something that surely should happen more.
Trice: Your coming here inspired quite a cross-community sort of thing: “Okay, let’s make this a special thing.”
Marsalis: You can tell when you’re here that that is part of it. It’s like a dream I have of really integrated arts. Ballet, film and theater and music and visual arts – all arts come together in one space, on one particular theme.
Art gives us more of a sense of who we are, where we are, where we want to be. It’s an easy way to teach important things, through metaphor, through reenactment and reiteration ... You’re telling a story and that’s like literature, except it’s not written down. It’s theater. It’s drama. You are trying to make that event come alive to somebody else who was not there. (The arts) Testify to existence. They’re designed to communicate what you know, and what you perceive.
I read about a revival of the Greek idea of theater. They had songs that everybody knew, they had masks, and other visual elements ... and the feeling of community unfolding, resulting in literature ... there was something of various elements. I think it’s time for a lot more integration, not just within the arts, but integration, period. It’s time to understand how all the forms intertwine, bringing things together.
It all comes from that same impulse, except it (the art), deals with the greater themes. Because that’s what’s interesting. Not just interesting to us, but to all other people. That’s what was interesting to Picasso, to Matisse, that’s what was interesting to Shakespeare, to Beethoven – because that’s what’s interesting! It can seem complex, but it is not.
Trice: I remember something you said on the Ken Burns JAZZ series, when you said that your father had said: “Look, if you want to be different from anybody else, do what other people don’t want to do: practice.”
Marsalis: Right. “Do what they are not willing to do.” That’s what he said. “If you really want to be different, here is the key to being different.”
Trice: What is the difference between learning from a working artist versus learning from a formal educator?
Marsalis: A lot of times the formal educators work in a system and you know they can’t curse, and they have to reat you like they have a certain distance, ‘cause they’re dealing with numbers and they’re dealing with a system. And, you know, they’re also dealin’ with people’s sensibilities. I mean, I played places where people say: “Don’t touch the kids. You can’t tell them this.” You know, I’m always puttin’ my hands on you (touches Trice) ... It’s too formal, it’s a stylized way of working. Whereas with a working artist, you know, you’re just there. And he just says: “Look at that! Fix that!”
Students need to learn that you don’t go to school, you don’t study a course, because it’s easy to do. We have to figure out how to make it interesting for them once we get them into it. That’s part of our job. We’re not looking for them to establish the curriculum.
I guess that’s why I was realizing that this workshop is not only an inspiration for kids, but it is an inspiration for the musicians – who are here to try to challenge themselves with this music. And you come and play with them, and it’s that kind of quality and force. It gets them back into “Wow! This is what I want to do!”