The April 2016 exhibit in the Gualala Arts Center Elaine Jacob Foyer is “Jazz Legends Sketched Live At San Francisco’s Historic Keystone Korner (1981-83).” Opening night reception is on Friday, April 1 from 5 to 7 p.m.; artwork remains on exhibit through Sunday, May 1.
“The history of jazz is a mosaic of complex personalities who have created a myriad of stylistic improvisational music. It is also laden with atmospherically rich clubs and legendary venues.
“The music is in the walls, you can feel it. You just know it when you’re there.” Clubs such as N.Y.C.’s historic Minton’s Playhouse, Birdland (“The Jazz Corner of the World”) and its Village Vanguard to S.F.’s Bop City, Black Hawk, and Jazz Workshop have captivated us throughout the decades. Oakland’s Yoshi’s surely contains that magic now.
This series of charcoal “caught in action” impressions were primarily sketched at S.F.’s appealingly magnetic and eccentric Keystone Korner in the early ’80s. Some were drawn at the Fairmont Hotel’s elegant and plush Venetian Room and Top of the Hyatt, all heartfelt clubs of our rich heritage.
At Keystone one night, I observed a raven-haired bohemian artist sketching tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan. I introduced myself in order to propose my idea of commissioning a series of live sketches as the jazz giants performed in S.F.
During the next three years this respected North Beach woodcut artist Kristen Wetterhahn and I would decide upon which musicians to draw. I requested that she ask them to sign the drawings. In some cases they even wrote personal messages to her on the vibrant sketches.
Although luminaries such as Monk, Coltrane and Ellington had already passed, this formidable collection includes pinnacle names such as Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. All in the collection are legends, some names more familiar than others.
Jazz is a proud and unique part of American heritage and these innovators, captured here as live action sketches, are major to our life sustaining cultural fabric.