Once upon a time, August started with lots of music and motion with Jazz Em Agosto Festival, at Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. Today my drawings for Jazz.pt were published and here's the story through some of its characters- the musicians - told by someone who was there every night, on the first row, listening and seeing.
The beginning of this traveling lit with the Fire! Orchestra.
The first portrait I did, was this one, from the Norwegian french horn player, Hild Sofie Tafjord. She looked like a white Roman goddess among the forest of the Gardens of Gulbenkian and the noise of the Orchestra. Beautiful. A drill in the dark, she was my window to the music, my kick-start to the festival. I asked my long time Norwegian friend and also a musician, Asbjørn Ribe to help me out translating (Takk!) window to Norwegian. It's Vindu. It took an angel to figure the jungle among us.
Andreas Berthling was playing with his electronics and I had this image of him, strolling with all those colored wires as flowers or candies :)
The voice of Mariam Wallentin lamp's body wasn't fire, it was light, an incandescent lamp. I loved the tone of her voice, deep, and strong.
Michael Mantler’s Jazz Composer's Update & Orquestra de Jazz de Matosinhos (OJM) were playing with several guests.
The loops in Bjarne Roupé's guitar playing inspired me in a vision of figure skating and this background pattern.
I wanted to portray the Austrian piano player, David Helbock as if I was seeing him through a black and white lens. Austria has a very special place in my heart and, for sure, their musicians had a role on that.
Representing the Portuguese crowd from the fantastic OJM is, in my drawings, Marcos Cavaleiro. I think it was the first time I saw him playing live, and it was a great surprise! I did his sketch live and then worked for days on its background, with these collages.
As soon as I saw this drummer, I knew I wanted some of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's vibe on his portrait. From it, I took the people and flowers theme inspiration along with the colors of its 4 great Sergeants (John, Paul, George and Ringo). Marcos Cavaleiro was creative and stepped up to the plate on this gig. His commitment to the OJM purpose made it worth all the work this drawing implied. Bravo!
Mats Gustafsson's Swedish Azz project was playing.
Back in 2013, Jazz.pt magazine asked me to do a best of of my favorite releases that year. One of them was Dieb 13's trick17. Perhaps because I previously knew his work and loved it so much, he was one of the persons I most wanted to see live this year.
His manicure inspired me to use nail polish as ink on his drawing. The greens of the nature, the ready to use canvas like color of his table, and him, in a deep sparkling blue night sky.
Swedish Azz is a demanding project for skillful performers and Swedish music connaisseurs. Although his performance was good, full of details of the minuscules sounds, I sensed he had much more to show - he just needed more space to do so. I'm looking forward to see more of his work.
Per Åke Holmlander was the instrument he created and played in this concert.
Very creative and fun!
Erik Carlsson was all around the place, so fast, so sharp, he could fly, or he could be a fly. Found trummor's the word for drums in Swedish. It sounds alike tremor in Portuguese (to shake, to tremble). Thought it was a funny coincidence because, I had the feeling, this guy was ready to shake some consciousness out!
Had heard Mats Gustafsson several times. It was a surprise this concert. Thank you so much for sharing with such care the Swedish Music History and some of your personal heroes like Lars Gullin, Bengt “Frippe” Nordström, Jan Johansson, Bernt Rosengren, Georg Riedel, Lars Werner, Berndt Egerbladh and Per Henrik Wallin. They became mine as well! I loved this concert, this project and the way they all turned Swedish classics into something even better, if that's possible!
All concert long, Mats and the music was telling a story, so I made his table with an open book shape and the swedish flag. This concert surely was also a reminder of why Jazz em Agosto Festival is vital and a festival really worth going to - definitely an investment to the future creativity.
During this concert, and due to its also pedagogic nature, I remembered how many concerts I saw there as a kid, and how that played a crucial role in my life nowadays. If I hadn't had such a musical parenthood, I would've never been doing what I do today!
The stars were aligned and it was Red Trio's time.
If my Jazz em Agosto story were a fairy tale, Gabriel Ferrandini would certainly be its prince, riding the music. This concert, on a gallop, he snapped the cymbals, shaping the thin air around.
Red Trio's guest for the night was John Butcher. I imagined the sound as a color being compressed in layers until exhaled.
Had made a portrait of this double bass player in a different occasion. This one was special because, along with this drawing I wrote a poem in the concert, for him, and the drawing regards to the text. As the outline was the first thing I did, just afterwords the content, I used pencil (thought of it as a color of dust and cement) and the colors used are mentioned there as well. The birds inside and the mad city outside Hernani Faustino.
I wrote it in Portuguese and will put here both versions (en/pt).
Poema de fora para dentro
Quando a paisagem e a cidade se impunham
de torços esquecidos,
era o azul dos pássaros
e o carmim das Marvilas da vida
o vulcão a chegar,
o avião a descolar
e o cimento e o pó,
turbante de uma outra vida
tiragens de outro azul,
um mais a sul,
de maré enguiçada,
de jangada na alvorada.
Poema de fora para dentro.
Poem from the outside in
When the landscape and the city were imposing
of forgotten torsos,
it was the blue of the birds
and the crimson of the Marvilas of life
the volcano arriving,
the airplane taking off
and the cement and dust,
turban of another life
print runs of another blue,
one further south,
of stalled tide,
in a raft at dawn.
Poem from the outside in.
This one is Rodrigo Pinheiro, brilliant as he is! There was a moment during the concert where he kind of was in this position, although he was like that to make certain sounds, I pictured him as if the piano was a music rug he was pulling. Some years ago, his playing inspired me to do one of my favorite musicians drawings so far.
It was one of my favorite concerts of the festival. I really liked it. Them, the music, the interaction, all.
Time for a break on just music.
This day we had cinema too, with Lok 3 who performed along/watching two mute films (first the Symphonie Diagonale from Viking Eggeling, 1921 and then Berlin, Die Sinfonie der Großstadt, from Walter Ruttman, 1927). These were indeed very inspiring. Different form each other and pretty interesting both. And always great to review the amazing city, Berlin is. Its rebirth from the ashes is just amazing.
As a matter of size and proportion, on this drawing, the elements in black (taken from the film) were too imposing, not the family-musicians (Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase are a couple and the parents of Dj Illvibe) which was a pity, as all of them are proven very talented. The drawing shows them being ruled by the screen, by the vortex of images.
Even so, one could still get Alexander von Schlippenbach's high level of playing. He was definitely the musician with most class of the Festival. I pictured him as painting a city (Berlin), its roads and streets by his piano. His hand is road marking with a white line - and, at the same time, is the piano keys.
Had seen him other times live, and witnessed his eared approach. It seemed very refreshing (hence the light green) how he knew his records - jazz, opera, classical, experimental stuff that he mastered with the right cuts and speed. I pictured his own portrait as being a vinyl record. The center of it is simultaneously, his headphones. I had in mind in this drawing the idea of repetition until you create something else from it, which is exactly one of the things I think he does!
The revelation day came with The Young Mothers.
Starting by its guitar player, which I firstly drew, Jonathan Horne. The safari was on and, Dude, when the man arrives, he's gonna get you! His guitar was unstoppable and his outfit was the most inspiring of the whole festival, for sure! Proudly representing rock.
Jawwaad Taylor is the man behind the trumpet and the hip hop on the band. He was on the vocals too, and so I wanted to paint him throwing words with sound to a wall. Had street art on my mind, and made a point in making a list of invented words by its sound. I've spent many hours working on this drawing along with the Marcos Cavaleiro's portrait.
This one portrays Stefan González (vibraphonist and one of the drummers of the band) in the moment they were playing "Mole". At this point of the concert, I looked around and everybody was bouncing to the sound of the music. We were so happy and I know they were too. This drawing is a tribute to that - to enjoy life through joy and flow. Stefan you made your vibraphone playing sound like a kids play easy breezy, with ping pong balls flying with the wind! It was so beautiful. Besides that, he gave the hardcore metal vibe to the band too!
I drew Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, the mentor of the band and the one who had the idea to brilliantly mash up rock, metal, hip hop and jazz in one band. I used a Ionic column as a reference to his structural role in the band, but he wouldn't be a white classic one, but a post modern electric blue one! If I'd sculpt Ingebrigt that's how it should look like.
At the end of the concert, the public fiercely applauded, standing! Asking for more! One more time! Two times! And they came back for the encores jumping and smiling, as little kids do or as artists who had just done something memorable and hard to achieve - to convey life in art in its most expressive way. It's already on the list of the unforgettable concerts of my life.
When you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing.
That is a zen saying not easy to look up to. That has never been so true as in this concert. The stakes were high in the mountain, as the concert in the day before was what it was, and the guys playing this night are considered legends.
We're talking about Wadada Leo Smith and his band who this night was playing his Great Lakes Suites. His ideas didn't sound that clear to me so I decided to draw him in 3 different positions in the same drawing with earthy colors. Anyways, I think it is a nice idea to give importance to nature and its force in the world, so cheers up for making that into music. In the end of the concert he was kind enough to say they played for everyone there. I really appreciated his inclusive gesture.
The other legend present that night, was the band's guest, Henry Threadgill. Although his beautiful hands were in action, he seemed lost in the rain, in the lakes, in the city or wherever he was at, all sites but there. Still, and also as Alexander von Schlippenbach, mentioned before, one could tell his star quality. It seemed he simply wasn't on his days. I decided to put no color on his drawing because of that, also you can't really tell by the drawing where he was, there is no ground, just some vertical visual rain or noise, and in between a charcoal pencil shade of Henry.
Everybody has its moments, and I don't believe in full time super heroes. And we, the audience, have our days too. Hopefully I'll have other chances to listen these guys.
It was the last day of the festival, with the French Orchestre National de Jazz directed by Olivier Benoît. The theme of this concert was, again, Berlin.
Had seen Fidel Fourneyron playing last year but didn't had the change to draw him. I'm glad I did now! On this drawing he has the golden arch for the universe, a gate to the stars. All the drawing was made live, the sky collage and arch painting where the parts done afterwords. I thought of this image for him, because, from the place where I was sat he was the first guy I could see from the whole band.
Alexandra Grimal lived up to the intensity of some moments of this concert, which where my favorite parts. The black and the charcoal I used in her portrait were truthful to the colors she wore but the main reason why I used them was to symbolize her deep, sharp and at the same time rough nature. It crossed my mind the image of a hawk, accurate on his targets. Alexandra was able to come up with several targets at the same time with sensitivity and focus (hence the several petrol blue circles in the drawing).
The last drawing I did in this festival was from the drummer Eric Echampard. There was a certain firmness on how he played the cymbals. Structure, persistency and even an obsessive way of approaching this instrument were all there. It was in the most intense and deep moments of the music he shone the most. No polished finish, this was about a certain physical brutal quality. And that's why, afterwords doing the drawing live, I decided not to paint the rest with pencils or brushes but to use my own fingers. If you zoom the drawing you can still see some of my fingerprints.
In the end I took home new musical heroes in a shinny mood, but not only that. A great collection of memories, from the amazing environment of this musical family, to the chocolate a friend surprisingly offered me, to the new friends I have made, to the old friends I have met, to the drawing talk I had afterwords one of the concerts, to the feet I drew and did not have time yet to finish because of these drawings, to the never existing brie with raspberry toast, to the water with lemon nights, to the four leaf cloves of Eeva, to the waltzes in a kinky part of town, to all the new nail polish and magazines I had to buy to finish these drawings, to the toilet closed because I took a bit longer in the auditorium giving someone a nail polish, to the autographed vinyl I got as a present from one of the bands and finally to the stage lamp that exploded right before one of the concerts.
All of that is a proof of life at its best!
So, I thank all the Gulbenkian Foundation team and Jazz.pt crew for this opportunity to live it at its fullest and expressing myself. And no, the prince didn't marry the princess but, the good part is that, in the end of this story, my Summer heroes go free.