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The Soul of Jazz

Sep. 10, 2013
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In the first half of the 1940s, America was at war…and not just the one you’re thinking of. There was also a clash over the soul of jazz. This war pitted the beboppers against the “moldy figs,” an epithet coined for those musical conservatives who believed that jazz began and ended with the traditional New Orleans style.

The war is over and the moldy figs have lost. As bebop demigod Charlie Parker said, “They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” But where does one go after the apotheosis of harmonic sophistication in John Coltrane’s Giant Steps? Where after the minimalism of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue? How to avoid the excesses of free jazz while assimilating its expansive resources? These are challenges the jazz musician continues to face.

By drawing inspiration from other mediums, saxophonist Andrew Rathbun has successfully navigated this treacherous terrain. Taking a cue from his fellow Canadian, Bach-interpreter extraordinaire Glenn Gould, Rathbun sought to marry the fugal form with jazz. He has also set poems by author Margaret Atwood to music. On Saturday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m., at Riverwest’s Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts (926 E. Center St.), Rathbun will make inroads to the future of jazz.


“Junk Rethunk”

Blue Heron Gallery

102 E. Pier St., Port Washington

How refreshing to hear “junk” rhymed with something other than “in the trunk.” It’s equally refreshing for the old “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” truism to take on some concrete meaning. And “concrete meaning” may here mean concrete, seeing as the Blue Heron Gallery challenged artists to trade their gouache for garbage. The works were invited to range from Rube Goldberg-esque functionalism to purposeless objects of aesthetic contemplation. “Junk Rethunk” opens with a reception on Friday, Sept. 13, from 5-7 p.m. and runs through Oct. 13.


“Mithila Painting: The Evolution of an Art Form”

Chazen Museum of Art

750 University Ave., Madison

Had Grandma Moses gorged herself on Navratan Korma and stumbled to an easel, the result might have resembled the works in “Mithila Painting: The Evolution of an Art Form.” Deriving from north India and dating back to the 14th century, the style is a fine example of the coincidence of folk ritual and fine art. Traditionally, women painted these works on their homes’ interior walls to celebrate notable domestic events such as marriage or pregnancy. Those conversant in Western art history will find Paul Klee, Picasso and assorted outsider artists called to mind. The exhibition runs Sept. 14-Dec. 1.


“Crystal Cavern”

Sky High Gallery

2501 S. Howell Ave.

This collaborative love child of installation artist Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels and musician/performance artist VnessWolfCHild seeks to create a space of repose in which to reflect on our place in the Great Chain of Being. Vness’ sonic mélange of field recordings and electronic droning lulls one into a state of attentive relaxation. SVBF’s hypnotic structures of repeating triangles and pyramids blur the line between artifice and the miracles of symmetry found in nature. Experience the “Crystal Cavern” between Sept. 13 and Dec. 1.


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