PORTRAIT IN SEVEN SHADES jazz at lincoln center orchestra / composed by ted nash
Portrait in Seven Shades Portrait in Seven Shades tells a story about seven painters: not through words, as in a museum description, but through music. Musicians and painters often experience the same struggles, successes, and self-doubts when creating and later sharing their creations. When artists embrace their own truths, working on art can be an opportunity to discover something new from within. It may also allow us, the viewer, to get to know something of ourselves. Art often reflects the society and times in which we live. Many parallels can be drawn between the two forms of art. Like painters, musicians talk of colors, layers and composition. Several expressions are used to describe styles in both fields — impressionistic, abstract, pop. And of course there is the blues. Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, approached me one day while on tour in Mexico and asked me to compose a long-form piece to be performed at a future date by the Orchestra (that premier took place in February 2007). Although I was given the freedom to take the music in whatever direction I wanted, the only requirement was for it to have a theme. It didn’t take me long to come up with a concept that would truly inspire me to write an hour-long piece of music: each movement would be dedicated to a different painter.
I decided to limit my choices to artists who lived within an approximate 100-year period, about the age of jazz itself. The period spans the end of impressionism through abstract expressionism of the 1960s. Although it doesn’t correlate exactly with the existence of jazz music (the beginning of the 1900s to present), it is a similar time frame. During these periods each art form went through many important transformations. It was hard narrowing it down to only seven painters. There are so many artists I have truly admired, whose works have had some kind of affect on me, like Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Rauschenberg, Diebenkorn, and de Kooning. But there were a few choices that were obvious to me: Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet. I think of Picasso as sort of the Miles Davis of the art world. He was responsible for the development of important movements like analytical and synthetic cubism, and his work became more daring and expressive as he got older. Miles, similarly, helped give birth to movements like bebop and modal, and his music also became more daring with the development of fusion.
I have been a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for more than ten years and have gotten to know the individual members very well — their personalities, their strengths and styles — and have made orchestration and solo choices accordingly. I have also invited guests to perform: Nathalie Bonin on violin, Bill Schimmel on accordion, and Wycliffe Gordon on tuba. Each musician brings his musical sensibilities, helping to realize the musical objectives I have set out to accomplish. It should be noted here that this entire CD was recorded in one six-hour session, a true testament to the ability of this orchestra and the individuals that together make such an incomparable ensemble. It has been a great journey. I am glad to share with you a little of the creative process — the discovery, thoughts, and choices — that led to the making of this music. —Ted Nash with Ivette Dumeng November, 2009
Ultimately the list would include Matisse, Chagall, Dali, and Pollock. The difference in their styles would help lead to a contrast between each of the seven movements. I have also chosen recognizable artists and their work because I believe it will heighten a viewer’s perspective — I want the listener to hear music that expresses images with which they are already familiar. I believe this will lead to a greater experience and hopefully, as a result of hearing this music, one will see these paintings in a new, fresh way.
Monet / 6:42 I feel Monet embellished reality by diffusing it, using colors and textures to create fantasy. We feel nature, water, air — things that are very basic. I used Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond as a main inspiration. When you stand up close to this sprawling triptych you lose track of reality; instead you see the strokes, gestures and textures. Monet opens with a primitive drum pattern, like the beginning of life itself. The trombones form a base, with the woodwinds floating on top creating impressionistic sounds similar to Debussy and Ravel. It expands like the rising sun with the high trumpets, led with great expression by Ryan Kisor. The two sopranos state the main theme. The harmonic structure uses primarily major chords, creating lightness and an uplifting mood. Victor Goines’ soprano sax solo suggests exploration and playfulness. Ted Nash on alto flute plays with mystery and poignancy over a vamp that leads to a dance between clarinet and flute.
Solos Victor Goines, soprano sax Ted Nash, alto flute
Claude Monet Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond, c. 1920 Oil on canvas, three panels. Each 6' 6 3⁄4" x 13' 11 1⁄4" (200 x 424.8 cm), overall 6' 6 3⁄4" x 41' 10 3⁄8" (200 x 1276 cm) Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS ), New York / ADAGP , Paris
‘For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life — the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.’ —Claude Monet
Movement inspired by: Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond; The Japanese Footbridge; Poplars at Giverny; Sunrise; Agapanthus
Dali / 6:17 Dali incorporated images and objects that are very familiar to us, putting them together in an unfamiliar way, which can create discomfort or insecurity. He combined violence, sexuality, and secrets living in one’s sub-conscience. I think this is particularly evident in Illuminated Pleasures, a lurid and sensational work. The Persistence of Memory, probably his most iconic work, where he portrays melting clocks in a baron landscape, inspired me to develop an unusual time signature, 13/8. Embracing the effect of this painting I have found sounds and approaches to harmony that on their own are familiar but the way they are put together is unsettling. Dali, which is basically a disguised blues, opens up with an ostinato figure played by the bass and saxophones, representing the continuum of time. The persistent drum groove exposes a little of the aggressive quality of these paintings. The melody, played in thirds by trumpet and alto, exists in a different tonal center from the bass, like a lost creature searching. Vincent Gardner’s wails on the trombone augment the anxiety. An improvised solo, created simultaneously by Marcus Printup on trumpet and Ted Nash shadowing on alto saxophone, creates long melting lines. It climaxes in an almost violent end. A flamenco-like clave supporting Ali Jackson’s drum solo, emphasized by the orchestra’s hand clapping, references Dali’s Spanish heritage.
Salvador Dali The Persistence of Memory, 1931. Oil on canvas, 9 1⁄2" x 13" (24.1 x 33 cm) Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously © 2007 Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS ), New York
‘Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.’ —Salvador Dali
Solos Marcus Printup, trumpet Ted Nash, alto sax Ali Jackson, drums
Movement inspired by: The Persistence of Memory; The Little Theater; Illumined Pleasures
Matisse / 7:18 What I love about Matisse is the childlike quality and playfulness apparent in his paintings. He was a master of color. There is quirkiness in his works, and instead of becoming more and more sophisticated he became more and more simple, as with the cutouts he did later in his life. I think Matisse is somebody who didn’t conform, very much like pianist Thelonious Monk. In fact, Monk’s rhythmic quirkiness was an influence when I approached this movement. Matisse opens with Dan Nimmer dancing on the piano, like the five women in the painting La Danse. For this arrangement I use the bass and baritone sax on an angular unison theme, with humorous responses from the bass clarinet, soprano sax, and plunger-muted trumpets, like cutout pieces from The Knife Thrower. Joe Temperley, the senior member of the band brings sophistication combined with a childlike quality to his baritone solo. Carlos Henriquez on bass deals with bouncing rhythms, and intervallic jumps. The bass solo is followed by a sax soli (the saxophones playing together in fivepart harmony) expressing very much the reaction I have when I see Matisse’s paintings: joy.
Solos Dan Nimmer, piano Joe Temperley, baritone sax Carlos Henriquez, bass
Henri Matisse Dance (I) Paris, Hôtel Biron, early 1909. Oil on canvas, 8' 6 1⁄2" x 12' 9 1⁄2" (259.7 x 390.1 cm) Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. © 2007 Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS ), New York
‘I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.’ —Henri Matisse
Movement inspired by: La Danse; Goldfish and Sculpture; The Knife Thrower; Maquette for Nuit de Noël; Interior with a Violin Case
Picasso / 8:39 Picasso is one of the most recognized geniuses in the art world and was a well-known public figure. Picasso loved women and celebrated them in his work. This appreciation for women is apparent in many of his works, and in particular with Girl Before A Mirror where he expresses many sides of his mistress Marie Therese Walter, a woman he painted multiple times in the 1930s. In Les Demoiselles d’Avignon he certainly depicts women freely and in a less “romantic” light. With this painting Picasso overturned established conventions, and all that followed grew out of it: it is the precursor to his cubist work. I approached Picasso differently from other movements. In the first section I deal with the romantic and expressive side of the man. The second section explodes out of this romantic setting and moves us to the bullfight. The main body embraces his paintings not only on how they affect me emotionally, but also intellectually, focusing on his cubist style. Using the cubist theme, I explored the idea of fourths (four sides to a cube) throughout the arrangement: the trombone chords are stacked in fourths and much of the material is based on the interval of the fourth. The toreadors are Vincent Gardner and Wynton Marsalis, who solo on the chord structure comprised of four different tonalities, always coming back to E (the lowest note on the guitar and a common tonal center found in flamenco music). As the piece develops I incorporate mirror images of the thematic material found earlier in the piece. It reaches a climax by moving away from the intellectual and towards something more instinctive as it builds to a big E Phrygian chord, bringing us back to Picasso’s home.
Pablo Picasso Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907. Oil on canvas, 8' x 7' 8" (243.9 x 233.7 cm) Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest © 2007 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS ), New York
‘Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.’ —Pablo Picasso
Movement inspired by: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; Three Musicians; Violin and Grape; Repose; Girl before a Mirror; Ma Jolie Solos Vincent Gardner, trombone Wynton Marsalis, trumpet
Van Gogh / 6:53 The tragedy of unrequited love, the driving need to be accepted as a serious artist, the longing for success that never quite came (he sold only one painting during his lifetime) — most people are just as familiar with the story of Van Gogh’s life as they are with his art. Van Gogh’s paintings express his passion, full of thick strokes and rich colors. His many self-portraits show him to be sad or dispirited. Aware of his struggles, we are drawn into his paintings. The reality he captures is one we want to experience. In Van Gogh I use words to tell his story (my first foray into writing lyrics). Out of all the movements this comes closest to being in a style of American song form, a very safe and familiar form, and through this familiarity it’s almost as if I can create a safe place and nurturing environment for Vincent. There are a lot of references in Van Gogh to his paintings, and in particular The Starry Night, perhaps his most famous work. In The Starry Night we see the view from his sanitarium — he painted it by memory the next morning.
When I paint the sky I wonder why You don’t share my view Just like you I can see with my heart And I start Mixing and layering ev’rything Blue for you Textures of love Cobalt in hue But it’s true They keep me inside And force me to hide All the love that I feel Like a wilting flower Passion without power My desire pales Like a pastel shade I fade When I paint the sky I wonder why You don’t see my love When I paint, I paint for you
Vincent van Gogh The Starry Night, 1889. Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1⁄4" (73.7 x 92.1 cm) Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. Photograph © 2007 The Museum of Modern Art, New York
I chose to feature Wynton Marsalis on the melody and solo. I knew he would express with his trumpet the same broad strokes and textures Van Gogh found in his paintings. Our Vincent (Gardner) tells the story as I pictured Van Gogh talking to his good friend Paul Gauguin.
‘I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.’ —Vincent Van Gogh
Movement inspired by: The Starry Night; The Olive Trees; Irises; Self-Portrait (1889)
Solos Wynton Marsalis, trumpet Vincent Gardner, vocals
Chagall / 8:08 Marc Chagall was known to have two basic reputations: as a pioneer of modernism, and as a major Jewish artist. He grew up in a Jewish ghetto in Russia. He was also considered to be a master of color. “When Matisse dies,” Pablo Picasso remarked in the 1950s, “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.” Chagall’s paintings are very musical, and there is a lot of fantasy — he has violinists floating in the air and animals dancing. His works deal with family and social gatherings, and you get a strong sense of his theatrical nature (he was also a costume and set designer).
Solos Bill Schimmel, accordion Nathalie Bonin, violin
For Chagall I wanted to capture this sense of neighborhood, of people gathering in the streets. To help achieve this sound I invited members of my group Odeon to join the big band: Bill Schimmel on accordion, Nathalie Bonin on violin, and Wycliffe Gordon on tuba. Chagall begins with accordion on a short cadenza. The accordion is an instrument found in many Eastern-European cultures, and it is the perfect sound to bring us to the streets. The theme is played by the violin and clarinet suggesting a place somewhere between France and Russia, a place we may not have visited in the past, but where we feel at home. There is a short interlude where we see animals crossing the street. We then hear a beautiful cadenza by Nathalie on violin, and later an extended solo. Chagall loved the violin so much that it often appeared as a subject in his paintings, like a muse. The movement culminates with a klezmerstyle romp that builds to an exciting climax.
Marc Chagall I and the Village [Moi et le village], 1911. Oil on canvas, 6' 3 5⁄8" x 59 5⁄8" (192.1 x 151.4 cm) Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund © 2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS ), New York / ADAGP , Paris
‘I adore the theater and I am a painter. I think the two are made for a marriage of love. I will give all my soul to prove this once more.’ —Marc Chagall
Movement inspired by: I and the Village; Calvary; Zemphira; A Bandura Player; A Bear and Zemphira
Pollock / 10:28 American painter Jackson Pollock came of age at a time when jazz was very popular. The big bands were swinging on the radio and he was drawn to it. Pollock was quite reclusive, but I believe music gave him a sense of belonging, a connection to society. Pollock moved away from figurative art and became known as an abstract expressionist. When once asked, “What is modern art?” he answered: “Modern art to me is nothing more than the expression of contemporary aims of the age that we’re living in.” The time of his notoriety came just before the free jazz movement, and I wonder if the abstract form of jazz that began in the late fifties wasn’t influenced in some way by the expressionist art movement that began earlier that decade. In fact, Pollock’s White Light is featured on the inside of Ornette Coleman’s innovative record, Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation. With Pollock I wanted to create a musical canvas full of paint splatters: musical phrases being loosely tossed about. I sat at the piano and almost threw my hands on the keys and took what came out and captured these phrases. Pianist Dan Nimmer leads the rhythm section in a free interpretation of the theme, which is comprised of these abstract note groupings. The band then reinterprets these phrases as one long swinging line.
Solos Sherman Irby, alto sax Chris Crenshaw and Elliot Mason, trombones Bill Schimmel, accordion Ryan Kisor, trumpet
Jackson Pollock One: Number 31, 1950, 1950 Oil and enamel on unprimed canvas, 8' 10" x 17' 5 5⁄8" (269.5 x 530.8 cm) Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange) © 2007 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS ), New York
The soloists, Sherman Irby on alto saxophone, Chris Crenshaw and Elliot Mason on trombones, and Bill Schimmel on accordion, continue the abstract expressionist nature in their improvisations. For the shout chorus I gave the band specific rhythms to play, but allowed them to choose their own notes. This creates a sound that is both random and organized. All of this builds to a climax, which delivers us into a very cool minor blues featuring Ryan Kisor on trumpet. This section captures the kind of jazz I think Pollock loved, but also reflects the music of the decade during which he did most of his wellknown work — the fifties.
Movement inspired by: One: Number 31; Full Fathom Five; Free Form; White Light
‘Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.’ —Jackson Pollock
Portrait in Seven Shades Co-producers
For Jazz at Lincoln Center
Bill Schimmel accordion
Nathalie Bonin violin
Wycliffe Gordon tuba
Laura Johnson Executive Producer
Jazz at Lincoln Center
All images of artworks are
Orchestra with Wynton
used with kind permission
Portrait in Seven Shades was
Marsalis, Music Director
from The Museum of
Jazz at Lincoln Center. It
Reeds Sherman Irby alto sax,
premiered on February22, Very special thanks to:
2007 and recorded on
soprano sax, flute, clarinet
Brian Beasley, Ivette Dumeng,
September 6, 2007 at
Ted Nash alto sax, flute, alto
Cat Henry, Wynton Marsalis,
Frederick P. Rose Hall, the
and The Museum of Modern
home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Victor Goines tenor sax,
Art, in particular Margaret
soprano sax, clarinet,
Doyle, Kim Mitchell, Melanie
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Monios, and Ann Temkin
gratefully acknowledges the
Walter Blanding tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet Joe Temperley baritone sax,
following individuals for their Photography Frank Stewart Production Coordinator Eric Wright
Ryan Kisor lead Sean Jones
Jody and John Arnhold for the original recording
Vincent Gardner lead,
for the original commission
Portrait in Seven Shades: Agnes Varis
bass clarinet Trumpets
generous support of
Music Supervisor Kay Niewood
vocals on Van Gogh Chris Crenshaw Elliot Mason Rhythm Section
Release Supervisor Ken Druker Designers
Dan Nimmer piano
Luis Bravo, Gabe Benzur,
Carlos Henriquez bass
and Casey Walter for
To order the print music of Portrait in Seven Shades, please visit:
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Ali Jackson drums
Jazz at Lincoln Center