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May 6th, 2011
Art After 5 Presents Jazz Compositions Inspired by Ellsworth Kelly

On May 20 and May 27, Art After 5 will debut two commissioned jazz compositions by renowned saxophonist-composers Joe Lovano (May 20) and Chris Potter (May 27) that are both inspired by a single major painting in the Museum’s collection, Seine by Ellsworth Kelly. Each performance takes place in two sets, from 5:45–6:45 p.m. and 7:15–8:15 p.m., following a 5 p.m. interview with the composer conducted by journalist David R. Adler.

In 2005, Art After 5 developed a series that explores the relationship between music and the visual arts, offering a new point of departure for its acclaimed jazz programming. Lovano and Potter’s works will represent the fifth and sixth times musicians have composed pieces inspired by works in the Museum’s permanent collection. Sara Moyn, the Museum’s Producer of Evening Programs, said, “It is a thrill to continue to commission and present new music that connects music lovers to art and art lovers to music, and both of these artists have tapped into some of Kelly’s ideas, which relate to a fair amount of modern and contemporary music. What’s so exciting is that when you move into the territory where art and music intersect, you can expect the unexpected.”

This program, including commissioning and presentation, has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Music Project.

Not only are Lovano and Potter’s compositions new interpretations of visual art, but they also serve as a musical "conversation" between two of today's leading saxophonists, artists of separate generations who are equally groundbreaking in their work and musicianship. Saxophonist Joe Lovano (b.1952) is considered an icon of his generation of jazz musicians. His career began with the Woody Herman Thundering Herd in the 1970s, and includes three decades with the Mel Lewis Orchestra. He worked with the Paul Motian Band in the 1980s, and collaborated with major artists such as John Scofield, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, Dave Holland, and Ornette Coleman. During his twenty-year relationship with Blue Note Records, Lovano was nominated for eight Grammy Awards, winning Best Large Ensemble in 2000 for the record 52nd Street Themes. Lovano has been named DownBeat magazine’s Jazz Artist/Musician of the Year, Tenor Saxophonist of the Year and The New York Times critic Ben Ratliff has named Lovano “one of the greatest musicians in jazz history.”

A world-class soloist, accomplished composer and bandleader, saxophonist Chris Potter (b. 1971) is considered one of the leading musicians of his generation and is the youngest musician ever to win Denmark's Jazzpar Prize. Potter's discography includes 15 albums as a leader and appearances on over 100 albums as a sideman. He has performed or recorded with many of the leading names in jazz, such as Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, John Scofield, the Mingus Big Band, Jim Hall, Paul Motian, Dave Douglas, Ray Brown and many others.

Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art Adelina Vlas worked with Moyn on the visual art component of the program and helped to identify Kelly’s Seine as an ideal work of art for this project. Kelly (American b.1923) is a highly influential artist whose work intersects with the minimal art, color field painting, hard-edge painting and post-painterly abstraction movements. Seine, the painting on which Lovano and Potter’s compositions are based, is an important example of Kelly’s early abstractions, derived from his intense observation of water and light, epitomizing the artist’s interest in chance. In Seine, the artist employed a system of randomly shaded units on a rectangular grid to represent the irregular, flickering reflection of light on the surface of the French river which has a pixilated effect. Lovano has said that his piece will “make a connection between the music and the pixilation of the image (from the edges of space to the density in the middle); adding color where it’s absent through improvisation within the form, maintaining the idea of chance.” Potter said that originally he envisioned the writing for the project to be group-improvisational and that the sound be sparse and abstract, with some distant echoes of French Impressionism. The sparkling water image was the first thing that he responded to, followed by the idea of the sparkling being created by the underlying movement of the water. “ I could imagine two movements [inspired by Seine], one based on the reflection of light on the water, the second about the movement of the water.” Seine is currently on view in Gallery 175.

Says Vlas, “It is especially meaningful and exciting to see live jazz being created in such close proximity to the modern and contemporary galleries because the dialogue is natural, immediate, and uniquely compelling. The concept of ‘chance’ has informed so much of all 20th century art, from its roots in the paintings and sculpture of Marcel Duchamp to the musical and visual achievements of avant-garde composer John Cage, making it all the more fitting that the world premiere of these compositions take place in the Museum.”

For the premiere at the Museum, Lovano, on saxophone and percussion, will be accompanied by the Joe Lovano Street Band, comprised of Judi Silvano on vocals, Billy Drewes on woodwinds and percussion, Tim Hagans on trumpet, Marilyn Crispell on piano , Ed Schuller and Scott Lee on bass, and John Riley on drums. In addition to the new work, Lovano will perform from his ever-expanding catalogue, including interpretations from his acclaimed recent album Folk Art, as well as Viva Caruso Street Band and Grammy-nominated Symphonica. Potter will be joined by the Chris Potter Quintet featuring Mark Feldman on violin, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Scott Colley on bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums. Potter has also written and arranged additional works for this group to perform during Art After 5.

David Adler, host of the two interviews, has written about jazz for publications including JazzTimes, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Weekly, The New York City Jazz Record, and Time Out New York. He is also an adjunct lecturer in jazz history at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College. Adler will discuss with Lovano and Potter the process of composing the new works as well as their extensive careers, and take questions from audience members.

The compositions by Lovano and Potter have been commissioned in honor of Anne d’Harnoncourt, who was director of the Museum from 1982 until her death in 2008. Kelly’s painting Seine was the initial purchase that the Museum made through the Anne d’Harnoncourt Memorial Fund for Art Acquisitions.

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