Within/Earshot Jazz Fest 2020 artists talk inspiration
For this year’s Within/Earshot Jazz Festival, we asked artists from the lineup and some that have performed at BIMA in the past about what inspires them. Check out what some of this year’s artists said below!
Be sure to check out the lineup for this year’s festival for links to watch all the concerts and events even after they’ve happened!
In February of 2020, I had the pleasure of performing at Fredrick Holmes Gallery in celebration of Black History month where I had the opportunity to collaborate with the brilliant Kenneth Moore. When I saw the first image I fell I love with his artistic perspective. It was warm, strong, gentle, brave, and consistently used an image that looked like me. Not me personally, but a positive image of a black person. His entire collection is a journey of life and love and if I had the ability it would be the on every wall in my home That evening I got to me Kenneth Moore a quiet and loving spirit who brought his family from Los Angeles. I was nervous and wanted to make him proud in a profound and ancestral way that I cannot explain. We hugged at the end of the evening and to this day we are in contact.
Kenneth Moore inspires me to see the beauty in me and that my American History contains more than just pain but hope. His shapes and color choices feel like I am looking at a mirror and for once I can see the beauty within myself. This artist has helped me have the courage to explore music that is less conventional and contains messages that are prevalent to today’s environment. Once this Pandemic is over, we are hoping to work together someway somehow.
I was focused, taking advantage of my new surroundings, out of my Parisian bubble, to finally compose for my first personal jazz album. It had been three years and I was seeing the end of the creative tunnel, the project was taking life with a precise story and a musical direction. Writing all this music meant isolation and so when a little group of local artists invited me for an informal evening gathering it felt like a breath of fresh air. It took place in Emily Nelms Perez’s art studio, in Hamilton, NJ at the time. A couch, few folding chairs, and an improvised table hosting delicious appetizers that everyone brought to share. As the evening progressed each of us briefly introduced some of our current work in progress.
Sharing this moment was precious as everyone’s work was beautiful. It was exciting to witness the genesis of each piece and imagine their potential. Emily’s work was medium defying and thought-provoking. Each piece resonated with me. One, in particular, an astounding sculpture blending an imaginary white crow with two human hands as feathers. The hands seem like in an upside-down prayer pose. My mind was trying to grasp what this piece she named originally “A Broken Culture” meant for me. It felt provocative, yet visually pleasing, beautiful but slightly haunting. Emily had also difficulties to pinpoint the meaning of her work. When asked, she admitted that the sculpture’s meaning had evolved over the years. Each caption draft she wrote for it seemed influenced by her current life events. At that time she thought the work reflected humanity’s broken condition as a fallen people and the notion that human influence in the natural world is often destructive.
I asked her if she could photograph her sculpture, and that the photography would then become the album’s cover. She said yes and that’s how we collaborated on this project.
I truly believe and feel that all of the arts inform and influence each other each other in some way shape or form. So much of my work is inspired by relationships, places and what is affectionately known as “the hang”. Which in essence is the informal spirit and the creativity that is birthed from it. I think of the friendship of Igor Stravinsky and Pablo Picasso. Two giants of 20th century, each of whom created work that was a standard of excellence, influence and evolution. The two would send each other small little pieces of art to one another in the mail. I think of the Gustav Klimt and the Viennese cafe scene, where he knew Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Klimt inspired these composers and many artists through his work. I think of “Les Mardistes a salon of elite in artist in Paris which included Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and occasionally Claude Monet. Composer Claude Debussy would also join the group. I draw so much inspiration from the idea of all of these unique artists being in the same place at the same time, hanging, talking and musing with one another. When I think about it, this idea is one of chief inspirations for me and has been for a long time.
One of the most influential pairings of art and music has to be the iconic photography of Francis Wolff. The photographs from the Blue Note recording sessions of the 50’s 60’s capture the era completely while being timeless. Each artists is captured in this informal cool, dressed down hipness. The photos beautifully convey the magic that came out of those Blue Note recordings. The pictures and music an essential influence.