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The Jazz Professors: Blues and Cubes

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The Jazz Professors: Blues and Cubes
The Jazz Professors photographed by Kwok Yin Mak

The Jazz Professors… that word “professors” might, to some, suggest things stodgy, or – at least – a tendency to gravitate towards something academic; even pedantic; but not these, and certainly not their take on Cubism and [the art of] Pablo Picasso. For one thing these jazz professors have found a novel – even clever – way to connect the dots from being Picasso and looking at his art with fresh eyes through to the relevance of the art – especially from his “Blue” period – with a view to saying something about our own lives today.

The motor that drives this sojourn is the rhythmicity of Black Music [aka “jazz”] and, more precisely the propulsive contrabass of Richard Drexler and the extraordinary relationship he enjoys with his musical doppelgänger, Jeff Rupert. About this empathetic relationship let’s say right at the outset that the extraordinary manner in which they yin-yang with each other is at the heart and soul of every musical adventure. So too it is with Blues and Cubes

Each of the two musicians brings his prodigious musical gifts which have been honed as if on the leading of their respective rapiers. Having done that the tenor saxophonist [Mr Rupert] proceeds to dance around the bassist [Mr Drexler] melodically and rhythmically. Naturally this has a combustible effect on the other musicians who now dig deeper and bring their own respective musical gifts to make contributions to the music that can only adorn it and make it all much, much better. And so, true to their earlier releases this collection explores the Picasso and his art in a truly meaningful way.

Juxtaposing “blue” notes [with augmented ones] and minor variations with flatted fifths and slurred notes and even more languid intervals The Jazz Professors bring fresh perspectives to both Cubism and Picasso and the Blue Period, and the relationship of key works of art on music. Using swing and the effect of its liquid harmonics on melody and rhythm, the musicians adorn individual tracks with the genuine ability to envelop the listener in the joyful warmth of the music with one eye always on the paintings that inspire the art of music.

What is most remarkable about this set is that the ensemble manages to create a master class of how all art is likely connected and how the visual and aural lean on each other for inspiration and expression. The result is that even if you cannot remember the paintings themselves, or perhaps don’t even know them at all, you are awakened by this eloquent responses to [the paintings] and encouraged to go and seek them out.

Among the considerable musical riches of the album is most certainly “Segment”, deeply evocative of the rhythmic immediacy of its legendary creator, Charlie Parker. But there is also a king’s ransom of other remarkable music. In fact, it’s the main reason why we came to this exhibition – and that is a lively aural display of the works of Picasso. And both these reasons make the music on this album quite unforgettable, and The Jazz Professors far from a group of stodgy academics…

Deo gratis!

Tracks – 1: Blue Lamp; 2: Dora Mar; 3: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; 4: Blue Steel; 5: Segment; 6: View of Heaven; 7: Promenade aux Champs-Elysees; 8: Promenade in Blue; 9: Picasso’s Blue Lobster; 10: The Iberian

Musicians – Jeff Rupert: tenor saxophone; Dan Miller: trumpet; Per Danielsson: piano; Bobby Koelble: guitar; Richard Drexler: contrabass; Marty Morrell: percussion

Released – 2022
Label – Flying Horse Records
Runtime – 51:33

Raul da Gama is a poet and essayist. He has published three collections of poetry, He studied at Trinity College of Music, London specialising in theory and piano, and he has a Masters in The Classics. He is an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep technical and historical understanding of music and literature.

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