Impressions: The Story of a Collection by Alastair Graham
The folio of 71 black and white drawings of jazz musicians that make up the Impressions collection has taken over 12 years to assemble. The reasons are many, the difficulty in finding a decent and expressive likeness being not the least of them. The main element I found I had to incorporateand one that sometimes took several weeks to uncover and put down on paperwas the graphic metaphor that best reflected the personality, indeed sometimes the very sound, of the musician involved. That crucial ingredient was what I felt would set the drawings apart, and what would properly reflect and demonstrate the love I felt for the musicians and for what they had given me over decades of creativity.
I didn't properly realize the degree of dedication that was demanded from these masters until I was gently apprised by pianist, producer, and record label boss Ben Sidran with whom I worked on a very early version of the collection. He opened my eyes in a number of ways to the deeper nature of the work of these guys, and I realized that nothing less than an equally dedicated commitment to the job in hand by me would be necessary and appropriate.
Ben's interest was the first confirmation from a professional musician I had had and was crucial. The next came in Vitoria, Spain, where we were exhibiting the drawings at the festival in July 2002. I got an enthusiastic email from John Scofield, no less, who was playing there. This, alongside a very positive encounter with an impressive Archie Shepp (hat, cape and cane) meant a great deal to me. If the musicians themselves were interested in the work, then I must have been doing something right.
And so it proved. Copies have found their various ways to such luminaries as Airto, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock, all of who are reported to have responded warmly.
At the Cork Guinness Festival last year (2007), the collection was on show in the foyer of the Everyman Theatre, the main concert venue, and drummers Adam Nussbaum (playing with Marc Johnson and Eliane Elias) and John Betsch (with Don Byron) both sought me out to enthuse. A month later, an order for the book came in from Alan and Marilyn Bergman, much decorated lyricists for Frank Sinatra, Michel Legrand, and Barbara Streisand ("Nice 'n Easy," "What Re You Doing The Rest Of Your Life," "The Way We Were," "Windmills Of Your Mind," etc).
It gives me great, great pleasure to discover that Impressions, a project that was launched without any really sensible commercial foundation or direction, but that really was a genuine labor of love, has had the impact it has across such a wide spectrum of music professionals.