Sunday, June 20, 2010

Juneteenth - Jazz Jam

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. In honor of this holiday the Grand Bohemian (325 South Orange Avenue) hosted a Jazz Session Jam. Yvonne Coleman, the coorfinator of the event said, "Our Jazz Session Jam has been going on every Monday for almost two years and was selected to be a part of the Juneteenth event. The founder was the late keyboardist Billy Hall along with co-founder, saxophonist Don Black. The purpose of starting this awesome night of music was to have a venue to bring musicians together so that people could enjoy great music. Most important, proceeds in the tip jar goes toward needy families, and charities. "
I dressed up for the occasion and headed downtown. The jazz was to be flowing from 8 to 11 PM. I parked across from City Hall and walked down Orange Avenue to the Hotel, my dress shoes snapping crisply on the pavement. I entered the Bossendorfer piano lounge and asked where I could find the Jazz. I was led to the bar area. I didn't hesitate to find a place up front from which I could sketch. There was an empty table but it was being reserved for Dick Batchelor, a notable former Congressman and businessman and community leader, and his friends. I decided to place my small tripod camping chair next to a thick pillar and leaned back to start sketching.
There was much shuffling as people moved chairs from one table to another and at times photographers would stand in front of me to get their shots of the performers. Patience and perseverance paid off. I get a visceral thrill out of drawing while listening to jazz. The beat and rhythms add a spontaneous flow to the line work. The whole time I drew I was tapping my feet and swinging my body as I quietly let go to fully experience the flow and surge of the music.
People kept coming over to compliment me on the sketch. I'm always surprised to be complimented on something the is only half finished. I was talking to a woman on my right when someone tapped me on the shoulder making me swing around to my left. As I looked up at her my body kept falling to the left. My left leg had fallen asleep and I crashed to the floor. The woman tried to catch me but I went down anyway. I then tried to stand up to get some circulation back in my leg but then I stumbled again and began hopping up and down on my one good leg until I could do a sort of shuffle step to the beat of the music. When I had stopped my contortions, the woman said she had been watching me work the whole time I was sketching and she was amazed. I thanked her and then sat down to finish what I had started. I tapped both feet to the music to be sure not to loose them again.
Sultana Fatima Ali showed up for the final set, dressed in a black sequin dress. She and Washington-based Jazz musician, Marcus Johnson, both sat tapping on their respective cell phones with the warm glows from the screens illuminating their faces. I assumed they were tweeting or updating their Facebook statuses. I was shocked and delighted when I found out she had been inspired by the art-themed environment to write, and she shared her musings with me.  I believe through the visual elements and written word, an experience can truly be captured.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Mary Ann de Stefano said...

"When jazz is on the menu all souls come for dinner." Love that, Sultana!

"I believe through the visual elements and written word, an experience can truly be captured." You betcha, Tom. You and Sultana just proved that.

Thanks for putting me at the Jazz Jam this morning. I'm cranking up the music here.

Tom "Huey" Hewitt said...

The music was lively and my heart kept rhythm to the beat of the drums.
The tinkling of the piano and sound of the vibs surrounding my body like a lover's caress.
The notes of the horns wafting through the air like a warm summer breeze.
This truly was a night to remember and share. This is Jazz. This is water for the soul. This is life.

I was very fortunate to be able to particapate in the Junteenth-Jazz Jam, and left with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. The muscians were outstanding and the crowd was electric. I have always been a fan of Jazz music, but have never been able to sit down at a real jam, much less be involved. This is something I will never forget.

God Bless!

Beth said...

What wonderful paintings, with the vibrant color holding its own against what I'm sure was a great jazz beat. Have just discovered your work via Urban Sketchers, will bookmark right now.

Thor said...

Mary Ann, You are always cranking that creative beat!

Huey, How fantastic that you answer a poem with another poem! I am thrilled!

Beth, Thanks for checking in! I of course looked at some of your work on your blog and it has an urban freshness about it that I love. Figures walking out of frame fascinate me.

Alb said...

Great works!. awesome sketches.

Thor said...

Thanks Alb.

Susan Cross said...

Hey Thor, are there prints available of the top sketch? I have written an article about the jam and love what you've done. That jam is incredible. So much talent in one place. Best kept secret in Orlando. Hopefully my article will change that. I'd love to buy a copy of that sketch. Please contact me on Facebook or through Yvonne.