Duke's Birthday

Today is Duke Ellington’s birthday (1899).  He must be counted as one of a handful of the most relevant and influential musicians, not only in Jazz, but in all 20th Century music.  His compositions, and the way he tailored them to the specific strengths of his big band musicians, were innovative and masterful.

So, when I decided to make a bas-relief sculpture of a big band I chose to make “Duke” its pianist.  Most of the players in the band are generic faces, but I also put Charles Mingus on bass; Max Roach on drums; Charlie Parker on alto sax; Sidney Bechet on soprano sax; and Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax.  I consider them the quintessential and/or most historically important players on their respective instruments (I know!  Lots of room for debate and I welcome it).

Someday I will do another big band sculpture and make every player a specific portrait.  Who would you choose to be the best representatives on their axes?  Ya gotta have Louis Armstrong,  Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis in the trumpet section, but there is room for two more (Chet Baker?  Lester Bowie? Clifford Brown? Wynton Marsalis?)  The two tenor saxes are a big challenge too: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane, are the most obvious candidates.  And I don’t know where to begin with trombonists!  Feel free to chime in with your candidates for the ultimate big band.

Big Band In a Small Club. Cast stone from clay original. 15 x 20 x 1.5 in. Edition of 50 (over half have been sold). $375 ready for hanging.

Big Band In a Small Club. Cast stone from clay original. 15 x 20 x 1.5 in. Edition of 50 (over half have been sold). $375 ready for hanging.

Jimmy McGary Documentary & Sculpture at Cafe Vivace!

This Thursday, April 25 at Cafe Vivace, https://www.facebook.com/pg/caffevivace/posts/ there will be a screening of a new documentary on the life of the late, great Cincinnati saxophonist, Jimmy McGary. As part of the festivities I will be displaying the portrait sculpture I did of him in 1990. We were friends. I went to hear Jimmy often in the jazz venues he played in around town. He played beautifully, especially at difficult times in his life, and his playing inspired & moved me. My portrait of him is about that ability—the ability of artists to rise above the trials and tribulations of their lives and to inspire others through their work. The big hands represent his deeds; his well-defined face, his individuality & character; and the turbulently textured body, the painful, temporal aspects of life that we all must rise above.

He had a look about him, even when he was not playing, that I can best describe as having been chiseled by the wind. I could picture him on the prow of a ship. He had that look.

If you’d like to make a sculpture like this see my Teaching link above.

“MAESTRO, JIMMY McGARY”. Cast stone from clay original for bronze. About life size.

“MAESTRO, JIMMY McGARY”. Cast stone from clay original for bronze. About life size.