Friday, January 3, 2014

Open Sesame - The Music of Freddie Hubbard and The Jewelry of Joel Arthur Rosenthal - JAR Paris

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

I was not a Jazz fan when the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown first burst onto the Jazz scene.

The power, presence and technical precision they brought to the modern Jazz trumpet is awesome to listen to in retrospect on record, I can only imagine what it was like to have been there in “real time.”

But I was very much “on the scene” when trumpeter Freddie Hubbard first burst upon it as part of the Art Blakey Quintet [later sextet] and he literally “blew me away” when I heard the group in person at a Left Coast Jazz spot appropriately called the Renaissance Room.

To say that Freddie Hubbard brought a rebirth of the powerful and pulsating side of Jazz trumpet along the lines of Diz, Fats and Brownie would be an understatement.

The brilliance of his tone, the originality of his ideas and his propulsive swing just knocked me out; me and a lot of other Jazz fans.

After hearing Freddie with Art’s group, I checked out his debut recording on Blue Note. It’s title - Open Sesame - is an exact reflection as to how I felt the first time I heard Freddie play - like somebody had let The Genie out of the Jazz Lamp.

Recorded on June 19, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder studio in Hackensack, NJ and released the following year on Blue Note Records [BLP 4040/CDP 7 84040-2], Freddie is joined on it by many of the then-budding young stars in the Jazz galaxy: Tina Brooks on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Clifford Jarvis on drums.

I was reminded of Freddie [who passed away around this time-of-the-year in 2008 at the age of 70] while recently viewing an art book of the jewelry of Joel Arthur Rosenthal. Made for a very exclusive clientele, many of the exquisite creations of JAR Paris are currently on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in a show that closes on March 9, 2014.

Open Sesame is certainly a byword of the work of Mr. Rosenthal and you’ll find yourself  exclaiming this [and other expressions of astonishment] as you view his artistic jewelry in the video that concludes this piece. The music is - what else? - the title track from Freddie Open Sesame CD.

Here is some background information on Mr. Rosenthal and the fabulously baubles, bangles and beads he creates for the rich and famous as excerpted from the November 30th - December 6th 2013 edition of The Economist.

© -The Economist, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“IN 1978 Joel Rosenthal, then a fledgling designer with a passion for gems, opened a small shop off Place Vendome in Paris. He and Pierre Jeannet, his partner, named it JAR after the designer's initials (his middle name is Arthur). Mr Rosenthal, who was born 70 years ago in the Bronx, says, "I wanted to fall flat on my own face or make my own name."

He certainly succeeded in the latter. Mr Rosenthal is insistent that he had no powerful backer, either social or financial. Passers-by were not encouraged to drop in. The only publicity was word of mouth. Yet the famous and the rich soon found their way to his door, lured by the uniqueness of his creations.

The jeweller combs the world for quality gems, constantly expanding his range with unusual, even unfashionable stones, including green garnets, pink sapphires and black diamonds. His pieces are often unusually large and deeply three-dimensional. A brooch of two life-size, gem-laden lilacs is instantly recognisable as being by JAR. These are jewels for the chauffeured, not for those who need coats.

Mr Rosenthal has written that "beauty, art and luxury are inseparable from happiness." His prices are not listed, though there are clues. In May 2012 Lily Safra, a philanthropist, auctioned 18 of her JAR pieces at Christie's in Geneva in aid of charity. They fetched nearly $11.5m. Among them was a 37.2-carat diamond she had brought to Mr Rosenthal. "I can camouflage that," said the charmer, who can also be blunt. He wrapped it in the twisting stem of two poppies made of pink and green tourmaline (pictured below).

Eleven years after his only public show so far, at London's Somerset House, Mr Rosenthal is about to become better known. Some 400 pieces are on view in "Jewels by JAR" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many were made over the past decade and all are loans. This is the jeweller's first American retrospective and the museum's first display of "a contemporary artist in gems". Tom Campbell, the director, believes people will see how the Met's jewellery collection, which spans 2,000 years, has influenced Mr Rosenthal. In turn, JAR'S jewels will enable them to see the Met's collection "with fresh eyes".

These adornments and objets d'art, ranging from an amusing engraved bagel made of wood to a translucent amber pocket watch, occupy a single, spacious oval gallery. The walls are dark salmon in colour. The light is dim except inside the velvet-lined vitrines, which line the gallery's perimeter and also stand freely within the central space. The effect is dramatic.

The pieces are loosely arranged by category: flowers, animals, sea life. There are plump ruby roses and camellias from a fairy-tale garden. In one small vitrine a flat-faced hellebore covered in diamonds and violet sapphires rests alongside its case-a round snowball made from a smoky rock-crystal studded with diamond snowflakes; apt for a flower that is also called the Christmas rose. In jAR-land even the ferns are paved in diamonds. Among the beasts, a soulful zebra-head brooch carved from agate wears a diamond halter and plumed headdress. The exhibition ends with a wall of butterfly brooches, each one larger-than-life-sized and closely set with intensely coloured gems-including fire opals, amethysts and garnets.

Mr Rosenthal wants visitors to look at his creations without being distracted by long explanatory captions or audio guides. This is effective; all attention is on the jewels. But the Met is not a shop where such a presentation would suffice. There ought to be a catalogue, for instance, with information about the rarity and source of the. gems, comparisons with JAR'S most inventive contemporaries and comments from clients about commissions. Instead, the museum shop is offering only luscious picture albums (a short one with a biographical essay priced at $40 and a giant edition, which costs $800).

The museum deserves praise for exhibiting the work of an exceptional living jeweller, but not for letting him call the shots (even basic information, such as the size of the pieces, is missing). This is a sensational advertisement for JAR, as well as a fantastical, occasionally funny show, which is often very beautiful. For the visitor, that is both terrific-and not enough.

"Jewels by JAR" is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, until March 9th”

1 comment:

  1. Nothing like Hubtones. Freddie was a master. Your recent lenghty piece on Stan Levey was exceptional. MANY thanks for your work!


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