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Jazz and Abstract Expressionism Meet Verve with Olga Albizu

Radiante 1967 by Olga Albizu Born: Ponce, Puerto Rico 1924. Died: New York, New York 2005 oil on canvas 68 x 62 in. (172.7 x 157.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum
Radiante 1967 by Olga Albizu Born: Ponce, Puerto Rico 1924. Died: New York, New York 2005 oil on canvas 68 x 62 in. (172.7 x 157.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum

Stratoz and I went to the fine exhibit Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art at the Allentown Art Museum(through 10/02/16). Walking into the gallery, my eye immediately went to this painting, Radiante,  by Abstract Expressionist artist Olga Albizu(1924-2005).

It looked familiar, and reading the tag, I discovered that her paintings are on several jazz album covers from RCA and Verve Records, including one of our favorites, Getz/Gilberto with Jobim(1964). This made Bossa Nova known in the US, and featured Stan Getz, American Saxophonist, collaborating with Brazilian Guitarist João Gilberto, and composer Antônio Carlos Jobim.  Astrud Gilberto sang the now famous The Girl from Ipanema.

I enjoyed how the music I love paired with art filled with abstract color energy.  Olga Albizu studied art with Esteban Vicente in Puerto Rico, and then won a fellowship to study in New York in 1948.  She was a student of Abstract Expressionist Hans Hoffman.

I wanted to know how Albizu’s work came to be on album covers, and finally found some auction notes through Christie’s, written by Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park.

Albizu’s associations with RCA were also of a practical kind: she supported herself from time to time through secretarial jobs there, and through a remarkable connection – an assistant to the head of the record division, who displayed her work in the office – at least ten of her paintings were chosen for contemporary album covers. Albizu’s financial and professional struggles as a woman artist were, unsurprisingly, of a piece with her time; like peers from Carmen Herrera to Joan Mitchell and Elaine de Kooning, she lacked institutional support and regular exhibition opportunities.

I am fascinated with how many internet articles mentioned that her paintings were on album covers and how buried the actual practical connection was.  The confluence of people and ideas can  be vivid when we are the midst of it, and become obscure as years go on.  American jazz, Brazilian rhythms, Abstract Expressionism, and  Puerto Rican artists, all converging in New York City.



Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art
Exhibit at The Allentown Art Museum through 10/2/16. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

An Evening of Jazz with Catherine Marie Charlton

Thank you’s for tonight’s advance ticket purchasers!

A photo posted by Catherine Marie Charlton (@cmcriverdawn) on

Stratoz and I took a Friday night excursion to hear Catherine Marie Charlton‘s Maiden’s Voyage CD Celebration at the Kennett Friends Meetinghouse. We stopped at La Michoacana Ice Cream on the way, a shop founded by some folks who used to be Kennett Square mushroom workers.  Stratoz had guava, and I had the sweet corn ice cream.  Yes, corn.  I love cornbread with honey, so I took the chance, and it was delicious.  I don’t know if I could’ve named what flavor it was, but it was delectable.

Catherine Marie Charlton, Steve Meashey (bass), Jody Janetta (drums), Bob Meashey (flugelhorn)photo by Joe del Tufo

Posted by Catherine Marie Charlton on Saturday, May 30, 2015

Catherine Marie Charlton played one of my favorite jazz standards, Nature Boy.  During intermission she had us write phrases on slips of paper, and she and her trio improvised based on what phrases they drew. And she wore orange shoes, which is awesome.


We don’t usually venture out on a Friday, but the music was rejuvenating.  Stratoz suggested we stop at a diner on the way home for coffee and a snack.  The West Chester Diner was open 24 hours, and full of people eating breakfast at 10:00 at night, which is a PA tradition Stratoz cherishes.  Club sandwiches are ok too, and that’s what we ordered as did the table behind us.

X is for Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, A to Z Challenge 2013


X is for the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. Started by some jazz lovers in Rochester, John Nugent and Marc Iacona in 2002, Xerox became the title sponsor in 2009.

Our first visit, Stratoz went to vespers at Christ Church, one of the venues, and after asked if he could photograph the Tiffany mosaic. He got this cool silhouette of the drum kit as well.

Over the years, the Nordic jazz venue at the Reformation Lutheran Church has some of the most innovative music.
I took this photo of Stratoz by the larger than life Festival schedule. The Xerox Auditorium was already one of our favorite places on the schedule, and it was nice to know that Xerox wanted to participate even more by becoming a sponsor. They also started printing the passes with a funky text only visible under UV light, using their Xerox-Superpowers!
I keep last year’s XRIJF pass in my studio, as a reminder of the joy that is jazz.


M is for Montgomery County Community College Lively Arts, A to Z Challenge 2013


M is for Montgomery County Community College and the Lively Arts Program, Blue Bell, PA.    For more than 25 years, MCCC has brought dance, jazz, and classical music, and theater to Montgomery County.  It is a place of creative expression, and creative energy.

On April 13, 2013, Stratoz and I went to MCCC see the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, Indian Classical Dance, presented in partnership with Sruti: The India Music & Dance Society, Philadelphia.  I had not heard of this dance tradition, and it was a delight to discover.

“I dream of building a community of dancers in a forsaken place amidst nature.
A place where nothing exists, except dance.
A place where you breathe, eat, sleep, dream, talk, imagine – dance.
A place where all the five senses can be refined to perfection.
A place where dancers drop negative qualities such as jealousy, small-mindedness,
greed and malice to embrace their colleagues as sisters
and support each other in their journey towards becoming dancers of merit.”

“A place called Nrityagram.”

– Protima Gauri (October 12,1948 – August 18, 1998)

I am grateful for all the beauty I have witnessed at Montgomery County Community College.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to hear Kurt Elling perform there,
and I leave you with this hopeful and haunting tune.

Music by Duke Ellington
Original Lyric by Mitchell Parrish
Vocalese Lyric by Kurt Elling based on Von Freeman’s improvised melody from
Freeman’s 2001 recording, “The Improvisor”.
The lyric adapts the words of the 13th century poet Jelaluddin Balkhi,
or Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks.

Don’t worry about saving this music / or be scared if the singing ends
or the piano breaks a string / for we have fallen to a place where everything is
music and singing / everything is recovered and new / ever new and musical
and even if the whole world’s harp should burn up / there would still be hidden there
the spirit of song there to linger on / and even if a candle’s blown out by wind
the fire smolders on in an ember and then sparks again / the singing is a drop /
just a drop in oceans of seas / grace keeps it moving through bodies like these. . .

Studio Listening on Saturday: Dorothy Ashby’s Hip Harp and In a Minor Groove

Dorothy Ashby - Article from Detroit Magazine - Nov 13, 1966 (An Insert Supplement for The Detroit Free Press) Features Article " Dorothy Ashby At the Cafe Gourmet" An in depth article on Dorothy Ashby as a jazz musician.
Dorothy Ashby – Article from Detroit Magazine – Nov 13, 1966 (An Insert Supplement for The Detroit Free Press) Features Article ” Dorothy Ashby At the Cafe Gourmet” An in depth article on Dorothy Ashby as a jazz musician. From beyondrecords.

Curt’s Jazz Cafe blog has a wonderful Unsung Women of Jazz series, and on Curt’s recommendation I checked out Dorothy Ashby, and have been listening to Hip Harp and In a Minor Groove in the studio.  Every time I listen, I catch a few bars where I’m not sure what instrument she’s playing, and then I remember it’s the harp.  Dorothy Ashby and her husband had a theatre company in Detroit, and her creativity manifested in composing, playing, and in finding ways to make the harp hip to other jazz musicians.  Frank Wess plays flute on In a Minor Groove, and I am glad to be introduced to him via Dorothy Ashby.  I could only imagine playing with his tone when I was taking flute lessons.