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The Future is Charlie Brown: Guaraldi/Anderson/Coaxum/Achenbac at the JRAC

Jazz Record Art Collective at Fulton Street Collective December 7th, 2016

For a second year in a row, I got to live paint to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas record performed by Quentin Coaxum’s band at the Fulton Street Collective. Dec 7th 2016 and the place was jumping. All seats were filled.

We all know about the Chris Anderson curated JRAC series (Jazz Record Art Collective), when a band interprets (not covers) a great record and visual artists create during the concert. In Chris’ own words, I am a veteran of the program at this point, having live painted for maybe a dozen or more JRAC gigs.

This year was a ‘getting the band back together’ sort of event. Quentin Coaxum, Mikel Avery and Stu Mindeman revised their roles, joined by Hunter Diamond and Andrew Vogt. On the visual side, artist Ronan Dexter also returned to quality form, improvising again with me, creating fresh artworks.

I need not go down the historical road concerning this record. Mikel, Quentin and Stu did that prior to the show. The popularity and longevity of this record has as much to with it’s mindhead memory for us because of the TV show as it does with the pure accessibility and groove of the record. It’s a good album. And it’s cool to play at Christmas time.

I will get my personal connection to the record out of the way. Settling down into a new relationship with my new girlfriend and her daughter in Wheaton Illinois, we were putting the kid to bed around Christmas time, before I headed back to my studio in West Chicago. ‘My Little Drum’ spun on the bedside table. It’s that song with the low hum of children’s voices and patter of percussion. I knew I was in the right place, being with my future family, being a new Father figure and being blessed with real love for the first time.

This record has my heartbeat, is what I’m saying. Getting to revisit this music with my chosen profession of improvised painting is Holiday bliss. Stu Mindeman has become of my favorite keymasters playing in Chicago. In the realm of Jim Baker and Matt Piet, Stu is one of those musicians that can put his personal layer on and in the core of what he plays. Diving into the musical waters with Juan Pastor’s or Clark Sommer’s band, Stu gets in there, puts it on top and can even drive it home. He is that good.

Downbeat recently published an article on this show. So I will return focus to my domain; the visual art. But I will say, the band is tight. Coaxum held the leaves on the trees, Mikel and Andrew grew the roots and Hunter got out the flute for a high point. If you were there or heard a subsequent Holiday concert of theirs, you know.

My brothers, Ronan Dexter and his father Christopher Andrew returned to collaborate at this JRAC concert. Ronan with markers on canvas and Christopher with his camera. I met them at a Kahil El Zabar event a few years ago. Andrews was the media producer and Ronan just wanted to paint with me. In true Jazz Occurrence style, Ronan cranked out some gems on small canvases and started bringing the fashion models back to our jobsite. He was engaged in the business of generating interest. He was 6 years old. Since then, I’ve invited Ronan to paint at several other Jazz Occurrences, because his work is good. And I want to see where this young man will go with his art. As a curator of happenings, I get to do this sort of thing.

Then Andrews of stop time live brings his own cultivated lens to the show. The photographs in this article are his, and speaks volumes to his abilities.

I had conceived the notion of creating cartoon panels of the musicians playing. The music took over and, as is usual, told me what to paint. These included images are of three 3X4 ft. acylic on panel artworks, plus a smaller canvas painted during the pre concert conversation.

I don’t get paid for these JRAC events, but I do sometimes sell an artwork. Last year, Mike Reed bought one of the Charlie Brown Christmas paintings to hang at the Hungry Brain (it reminded him of Sun Ra album covers). This year I also sold an artwork to an audience member. It is quite satisfying when an attendee feels connected to a fresh painting and is whiling to patronize and adopt a document of the night.

Will Dec 2017 bring a reunion of Guaraldi/Anderson/Coaxum/Achenbach?

It’s on my Xmas list.


Feel free to engage in an email dialogue with me at about the sonic arts/visual arts movement.

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Images all rights reserved 2016©lewisachenbach/ARS

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