By J.D. Considine | Published October 2019
However much Jazz And Art might look like a concept album, it originally was a concept concert. In 2010, The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra presented a set of newly commissioned work inspired by great art. Considering that several of the painters were influenced by jazz—Stuart Davis, Romare Bearden—it made for a nice bit of cultural cross-pollination. The album doesn’t come with projections of the paintings that accompanied the show, but there are 10 pieces of music, instead of the concert’s seven.
Some of the writing here is interpretive, as with Vincent Gardner’s coloristic “Blue Twirl,” which tries to translate the energy of Sam Gilliam’s abstractions into sound. Others are representational, with Chris Crenshaw drawing on big-band tropes to evoke the swinging Harlem depicted in Bearden’s “The Block.” Mostly, though, what we get is pastiche. Papo Vasquez’s tribute to Wifredo Lam—“Air, Earth, Fire, Water (Orisha Medley)”—acknowledges the painter’s embrace of Santeria, but does so through soundtracky flourishes, redeemed only by righteous batá drumming and a growling Wynton Marsalis solo. Reassuringly, Sherman Irby’s Norman Lewis tribute, “Twilight Sounds,” closes the album on the sort of New Orleans-style groove fans have come to expect from JLCO, ensuring that even if Jazz And Art doesn’t live up to its premise, it doesn’t entirely disappoint either.
Jazz And Art: Stuart Davis For The Masses: The Mellow Pad; Stuart Davis For The Masses: Garage Lights; Stuart Davis For The Masses: New York; Blue Twirl; Bearden (The Block); Air, Earth, Fire, Water (Orisha Medley); Winslow Homer: Homer’s Waltz; Winslow Homer: Homer’s Blues; The Repose In All Things; Twilight Sounds. (51:47)
Personnel: Wynton Marsalis, trumpet, vocals; Sherman Irby, Ted Nash, alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Victor Goines, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet; Walter Blanding, tenor saxophone; Joe Temperley, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Ryan Kisor, Marcus Printup, Kenny Rampton, trumpet; Vincent Gardner, Chris Crenshaw, Elliot Mason, Papo Vazquez (6), trombone; Dan Nimmer, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Ali Jackson, drums, tambourine; Iwao Sado, Xavier Rivera, Anthony Carrillo, batá drums (6).