Friday, July 13, 2012

“The Rules” - Joris Roelofs Quartet and The Art of Clifton Karhu

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

There is so much to say about both the music and the artwork on the following video montage, but as it is a lengthy performance, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought it would keep its comments to a minimum.

This piece is another in an ongoing effort to combine looking at art while listening to Jazz.  As you view the slides of contemporary Japanese woodblock prints by the artist Clifton Karhu [1927-2007], we hope that you will not only recognize Karhu’s virtuosity, but also that of the young musicians who comprise the Joris Roelofs quartet.

I will have more to say about saxophonist-clarinetist Joris Roelofs in a future JazzProfiles feature devoted to his music.

The audio track is Aaron Goldberg’s The Rules which was recorded in performance at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on October 17, 2008. Joining with Joris on alto saxophone and Aaron on piano are bassist Johannes Weidemuller and drummer Ari Hoenig.

This is a long piece, but if you can sustain your interest in and involvement with it, I think it will move your ears in a new direction, one, perhaps, that the late composer-pianist Lennie Tristano might relish.

The interpretations of pianist Goldberg and saxophonist Roelofs harkens back to the ultra cool and intellectual style of Jazz favored by Tristano along with alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh.

What is markedly different in the Roelofs quartet’s approach is the drumming of Ari Hoenig, who plays stuff on drums that I’ve never heard before, and whose interactive approach is a far cry from the keep-the-time-and-stay-out-of-the-way drumming of Jeff Morton with Tristano’s quartet.

Clifton Karhu, was born in Minnesota, but lived most of his adult life in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, where he mastered all aspects of making traditional Japanese woodblock prints or Ukiyo-e.

Karhu self-designed, self-carved and self-printed his own wood block prints and his use of mood, color, and geometric design has reserved for him a prominent place in 20th century Sosaku Hanga [neo-ukiyo-e or creative prints done “in the shadow of” ukiyo-e].

There is some irony in using music entitled The Rules in a video tribute to Clifton Karhu as some considered him to be an iconoclast for the manner in which he used traditional Japanese woodblock techniques to represent his art.