Portrait in Seven Shades
"Portrait in Seven Shades will also take into consideration the lives of the painters. I have read a lot about them and know a lot about their lives, but have made certain projections about their emotional state. For example, for Van Gogh I have written a ballad with lyrics - the first time I have written words to a composition - and it expresses certain feelings that I believe Van Gogh felt. These lyrics make reference to some of his paintings ("Starry Night for example) and also expresses that what he really wanted was to be loved, to have his love requited. It is my feeling he never received the love he desired. When the words will be sung, it will be is as if he is speaking to Gaugin (a peer and good friend) or to his lover (a prostitute, actually). But in a way he is singing to the world, asking for the acceptance he never got (he only sold one painting in his lifetime).
Pollack was a lover of jazz. The movement I am writing for him captures the kind of jazz I think he loved, but also reflects the music of the decade during which he did most of his well known work - the '50s. The music will deal with a swinging, beatnik style. Because much of his art is abstract, the piece will strongly reflect this, with musical phrases tossed loosely on the canvas. For Monet, I have included impressionistic harmonies and solo sections. For Picasso, I first embrace his Spanish background. The music has a sense of Flamenco in it. Later the piece develops, as his art did, into cubes: the thematic material, the harmony, the voicings all deal with fourths. At the end of the movement the four different sections come together, giving an abstract climax, but resolve to a big E chord, bringing us back to Spain.
Being privileged to have played in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for nine years, I have gotten to know the individual members very well - their personalities, their musical strengths and preferences - and have made orchestrational and soloistic choices accordingly. I have also invited great guest soloists to perform: Mark O'Connor on violin, Bill Schimmel on accordion, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone and Yola Nash on vocals. Each musician will bring their musical sensibilities and help realize the musical objectives I have set out to accomplish.
The first half of the concert will feature existing works dedicated to painters by Duke Ellington ("Degas Suite ), Charles Mingus ("Self-Portrait in Three Colors ), Coleman Hawkins ("Picasso ), Maria Schneider ("Some Circles for Kandinsky) and Jim McNeely ("Cockiness for Klee).