Abstract art and Jazz improvisation: Making it personal in the age of the pandemic

By Francesco Crosara

We live in strange and dramatic times. The new normal for live music and the fine arts has physically separated performers and artists from the audience. A wave of cancelled public events was replaced by music in the living room and online performances with no public present. The pandemic may have restricted movement, but not creativity. Paradoxically, there are now more opportunities for collaborations than ever before, boosted by more affordable video editing tools, communication technology, and audience reached through social media. Suddenly, the world is now the main stage for musicians and artists alike.

This new reality has deeply influenced my current musical approach, as well as the artistic inspiration and creative concepts of my spouse, Julia Crosara. From my personal observation, Julia’s use of color and form is bold and vibrant, she creates new pieces with the spontaneity and determination akin to jazz improvisation. The images jump out of the canvas, the nuances demand attention, and best of all, the meaning of each painting is left to the subjective imagination of the viewer.

It was only a matter of time before Julia and I would collaborate on a creative project. The opportunity presented itself in early summer during the lockdown, in the midst of a highly creative time for both of us. While I was writing a new composition, Preludio Flamenco, she was creating a series of fresh abstract paintings. Every day we shared notes and inspired each other’s work. It quickly became apparent that the collaborative moment had arrived.

The new Preludio Flamenco project required a bold, multi-dimensional approach. As the song took shape thanks to the enthusiastic virtual collaboration with some of the best musical talent in Seattle and Los Angeles, I selected nine of Julia’s recent abstract pieces to incorporate into each scene in the video. Art and music blended perfectly. Each painting reflected the surroundings of the individual musician being featured. The art itself came alive through video transitions as if dancing with the Latin jazz groove. The 8-minute music video was selected to appear at the Earshot Jazz Festival as part of the Second Century series and was broadcast on October 21st.

This is just the beginning of future joint projects with Julia. Abstract art and Jazz improvisation: two unique worlds that blend together beautifully.

Watch the Preludio Flamenco video on YouTube.

Watch the Preludio Flamenco video

About the Artists

Francesco Crosara
Francesco Crosara is an Italian Jazz pianist, composer and educator who has played at festivals and venues across the USA, Japan, Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, and Italy. He has performed with Lionel Hampton, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Hargrove, Richie Cole, Bobby Shew, Ira Sullivan, Don Menza, John Heard, Gabe Baltazar, Bruce Forman, Barbara Morrison, and more. Francesco is a resident of Poulsbo, WA.

Julia Crosara
Originally from Chicago, Julia Crosara is an abstract painter, Saori weaver, and graphic designer. She earned a BA in Art History from NYU and a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Art & Design. She has been practicing for over 20 years and has shown her work in Chicago, Los Angeles, and the Pacific Northwest.


See the full lineup for the 2020 Within/Earshot Jazz Festival here.