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Jazz Occurrence: Sweet Jazz Chicago: Black Diamond and Twin Talk



My romance with Chicago continues, marked by this cooler summer, museum walks, hot dogs from vendors by Lakeshore and some recent unexpectedly lovely jazz music. Specifically, I want to bring to your attention to the bands Black Diamond and Twin Talk. As always, these live music experiences are (actually) colored by my discipline of live painting and being there documenting the concerts. I have painted these musicians before, so I thought I knew the material. The unexpected elements come from the difference between what I think jazz is and what jazz knows. Let me explain.

Part of me thinks jazz music should be exploratory and constantly breaking new ground. Part of me wants jazz to talk to me about our unsettling human condition and offer me answers. I find that I want a live music experience to do all of this in a way in which I have grown accustomed. This comes from listening to records, reading liner notes, searching Wikipedia and gaining homespun insight into historic contexts.

The Chicago live music scene is now and relevant and available. The live concerts, which I attend, are not always sweet and comfortable, and I like it that way. I expect that. I expect a high level of musical craftsmanship (craftwomanship) and subtle power. This is the AACM and the Midwest School stomping ground. Chicago is a stop for NY and international jazz stars.

So when the papers show me the turbulence of now, I go to a live show expecting outrage and activism in a form to which I can relate.

Chicago jazz gives me what I need, not what I want.

The artists of Black Diamond; Hunter Jay Diamond, Artie Black, Matt Ulery and Neil Hemphill delivered on Friday night (8/11) at Constellation, a lovely two tenor and upright bass groove of cool waters and contemplation. These four gentlemen presented sensitive works from their new release ‘Mandala’ (shifting paradigm records) and creatively I just had to go with it. I painted four large scale (3X4 ft.) works. The opening singer/songwriter Rachele Eve set the alerted-energy feminine tone of a journey, and Black Diamond followed with a perfectly sweet collection of new music.

Then, Tuesday night (8/15) brought my NW Suburban self to the terrace of the Museum of Contemporary Art to hear Twin Talk. Again, I thought I knew what to expect. Katie, Dustin, Andrew and I have collaborated a few times before and I love this band. Twin Talk’s music has a percolating sensory ease about it. The MCA sets delivered with a pleasant edge and provided unexpected inspiration. My need for answers, activism and response to the newspaper headlines has come in a novel form.

Chicago jazz gives you what you need.


On the fourth floor of the museum, there are two black rotary phones playing the Art by Telephone catalogue record, where I had a one-way conversation with Claes Oldenburg from 50 years ago. These predominantly male voices described possibilities of extended collaborations that were enacted at the MCA. I thought of where my place was in the art world. And something else happened unexpectedly. I received confirmation via email that Jazz Occurrence No.13 will happen at Constellation on Wednesday December 13th 2017. This news plus post gig glow with a phone receiver in hand gave me some clarity and has reaffirmed my path of a forward artistic direction. I may be soloing on wood panel during performances, but the creativity flow is collective. I always need to listen to the music and let the voices talk to me and guide the art. Thank you, sweet Chicago.

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