Thursday, September 08, 2016

Art and music

It’s not far from the parts of the brain stimulated by art and by music. Perhaps that's why artists and musicians seem so often to work hand in hand. Most obviously in the jazz scene here in London as an artist is Gina Southgate who has a regular display at the Vortex.
A third leg of this creative stool is maths/science. Eloquently put by the book “Gödel, Escher, Bach” by Douglas Hofstadter. And there is an evocative subtitle “An eternal golden braid”
Very rarely do all three come together. But very frequently there are two out of three, such as my own awareness of Escher and Bach, but not Gödel. Einstein was a violinist, as was Paul Klee and many artists passim who have become musicians, with two springing to mind being Terry Day and Leafcutter John. The art school movement of the 60s has a lot to answer for. Miles Davis could paint (of sorts). Evan Parker was originally a botanist, and Jake McMurchie (who leads Michelson Morley) studied maths.
My usual immediate reaction to the influence of science on art is that there is a strong precision involved, such as meticulous anatomical drawings by the like of Leonardo. Jazz musicians are usually logicians, solving problems of how to make music out of chord sequences, but also how to integrate with the musicians around them, as well as being able to assert their individuality.

My thoughts on this have been further influenced by my contact with mathematician turned artist Aurelie Fréoua. She uses terms and concepts such as ‘order’ and ‘chaos’, homing in on the spiral and on colour. But there is something which hooks up to jazz and even improvisation. Her work seems to have movement to it. Her spirals have intriguing ways of moving around colours, by the way that the paint is applied. While her abstracts start with her working from a wholly blank canvas, going with the flow, before actually recognising imagery which emerge from her subconscious. So there is an element of improvisation.
Like any good artist, she is fearless, though well aware that her work needs to communicate.
This was the case in a portrait of me that she has done. Completely transforming my complexion, clothing and hair but getting over her own vision of me!

She has been developing in a parallel way to many musicians whom I know and using the same attitude. I wonder if she will respond as much to the music as a stimulus to creativity, in the way that many musicians have responded to art?

The new Vienna School of Jazz: Namby Pamby Boy and Vienna Improvisers Orchestra 2016

The Viennese jazz scene is evolving. And, with the signing of Namby Pamby Boy on Babel, we are part of it. I went to Vienna for the launch of the new eponymous album at Konzerthaus. And enjoyed a great gig with over 250 there. How would I describe it? Bits of early Acoustic Ladyland, Led Bib, prog, New York downtown (reflecting Fab Rucker's work with Bobby Previte perhaps) and snatches of the approach of Weather Report (which of course was founded by an Austrian, Joe Zawinul). It has a lot of drive and positive enthusiasm, which could make it one of those bands that we dream of - which can, without compromise, perform also in 'non-jazz' environments. Of course, there was the Vienna Art Orchestra, which spawned a number of great musicians, such as Wolfgang Puschnig as well as leader Matthias Rüegg. Matthias, along with Christoph Huber, was one of the founders of Porgy & Bess, one of a handful of imaginative jazz clubs continuing in Europe today.  Another important 'link' in the Austrian chain is Peter Herbert, the bassist who is on a couple of albums with Huw Warren, as well as Christine Tobin's 'Deep Song'.

Now we are coming across a great new generation. Hannes Riepler brought over some about two years ago: the Pichler brothers and Maria Neckam. Mark Holub, of Led Bib, is now in Vienna too, and has come over with violinist Irene Kepl, on a couple of occasions. A trio involving Swiss singer Andreas Schaerer and two Austrians (Schaerer-Eberle-Rom) performs at Cheltenham. Pianist Elias Stemeseder is in Jim Black's present band

Meanwhile, Julian Argüelles is beginning to work teaching magic on the next generation as a professor in Graz, one of the longest-established conservatoires teaching jazz.

I got to hear some of the others also, when I went to the Zoom festival organised by Jazzwerkstatt. The Vienna Improvisers Orchestra was the final concert. It is always intriguing to differ the various Improvisers Orchestras around Europe, such as those in London, Glasgow, Amsterdam (the Royal IO). This one is very much the brainchild of Michael Fischer who really makes the group move like a single instrument. The VIO's texture seemed to be strongly influenced by strings accounting for nearly half the line-up and also a strong vocal duo. Fischer allows a lot of space to many of the instruments to solo extensively. Particularly noteworthy, to me, was that of Alex Kranabetter on trumpet who was able to take advantage of the many sonic capabilities of the instrument, sensitively sputtering as much as playing technically clearly.

As with many such improvised gigs, it was a mixture of getting involved in the process, and enjoying the elements in the middle of the set, but it led to a grand climax which was worth the wait. So, watch out! The Austrians are coming.