While Listening to…

“Ascension Jazz in Red” 30x40cm acrylic on wood (private collection, Melbourne, Florida, USA)

John Coltrane’s “Ascension…

I love jazz, always have since the late seventies. I sort of transitioned over from my first love which was and still is, rock. Now they call it classic rock because it has transcended through the decades and it is still as fresh and powerful as when it was originally done. It’s hard to improve on classic rock, I believe.

I have been a musician, a soldier, a playwright, dancer and, I guess, always always involved with something artistic. I prefer to call myself a poet of the brush, the strings and the written word. But I am simply a “jazz” painter. The reason is not just because I like to paint references and scenes that relate to music and dance. Although I tend to usually include in my compositions instruments and players. But the reason, as I have stated in other articles, is that I have adapted the “official” definition of Jazz…developed by the original masters back in New Orleans at the turn of the XXth Century…and made it the ruling guideline for the way I paint.

Jazz is considered to be the “performer’s art”. To define the genre, it was accepted, by convention, I guess, that for a song to be “jazz” it had to have the musical element of improvisation, it had to allow for the player…or players…to compose as they play, musical and compositional spontaneity, and it must swing. Jazz must have rhythm. Some purists actually think that Jazz should not have melody, that it should be purely the structure of the music, placed against a rhythmic back beat and that if it became too melodic, the melody would steal away the purity of the notes, chords and sequences.

I’m not a purist. I love Jazz in most of its forms. But when I heard John Coltrane’s “Ascension” album, I was moved to actually paint what I heard. This was a pivotal album, as some critics have called it, for it broke away, in many ways, from Coltrane’s previous work and it marked his farewell to the Miles Davis ensemble.

Coltrane assembled the following musicians to create “Ascension”: McCoy Tyner on piano; Jimmy Garrison on bass; Elvin Jones on drums; Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone; John Tchicai and Marion Brown on alto sax; Freddie Hubbard, Dewey Johnson on trumpets and Art Davis also on bass. Coltrane played tenor saxophone. The album was recorded at van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on the 28th of June, 1965. “Ascension” was released in 1966. It is a masterpiece.

The year 1965 was a great year for music…and this is an aside, naturally…because that was the year the Beatles released, what in my opinion, is their best album…at least it is my favourite…”Rubber Soul”. Both of these albums, Ascension and Rubber Soul, albeit sounding eons apart from each other, included major changes within the structure of the songs and the instruments used. The Beatles went much further in their musical aesthetics when creating Rubber Soul. They used many studio techniques and many innovations. Their experimentation and quest for a new and unique sound while recording Rubber Soul, led them to record and release, in 1966, the second greatest album they have ever made, in my opinion, which was “Revolver”.

So, from Coltrane’s “Ascension” to the Beatles, that is what Jazz is all about. You know where you start but not so where you will end up and that makes the journey very interesting. I try to capture that in my paintings and my drawings. Not only through compositions that include musical instruments, dancers and musicians, but in the way they relate to each other and in the way the compositions line up in layers with an implicit perspective that enhances the whole idea of improvisation, spontaneity and swing.

So, prepare your ears and listen to “Ascension”. If you are not used to improvisational jazz, sans melody, it may sound like noise to you. But do not give up. Listen as much as you can, then listen again. If you take a break from Ascension, listen to Rubber Soul and then go back to Coltrane. You will see that little by little you will hear the spirit of the album. You will sense the message it transmits. You will commune with the players and meditate upon the endless universe created by the notes, the harmonies, the chords and the rhythm of such an interesting work.

All artwork and photographs included in this blog are my work and original. I am an artist from Valencia, Spain. If you would like to see more of my artwork, paintings, drawings and music, please visit my Instagram @Francisco_Bravo_Cabrera and my YouTube channel under the same name. My “JaZzArt en Valencia” 2019 collection can be seen at my online galleries http://www.ArtPal.com/rfbravo1155


What’s Our World, Flat? Round? A planet? A plane?

Graphite on paper 50 x 30 cm 2015, in private collection, United States

Very well, I understand this may not be something that you wonder about. I am aware that science has “proved” that we live on a planet. That science has educated us so that we are certain that our planet spins at a high rate of speed and velocity, for it also orbits around another celestial body that we call the sun. All this has been “proven” and the “proof” accepted as undisputed “fact.” Anyone who does not believe and accept this is as mad as a goat.

Well, you might be, but I am not governed by scientific proofs or theories. I live because I breathe and because I’ve a spirit, a body and a soul that owes its existence to God. I am an artist. I live in a world that is not ruled by the scientific method. I live in a wold where there is magic. I live in a world where there are dreams. I live in a world where there is mystery, fascination, fantasy, ghosts, spirits, gods, virgins, saints and wise men…

I don’t really know if the world is flat or round. Frankly it does not make a difference to me. I know I live in a world that is now suffering the abuse of mankind. Suffering the abuse of science and technology that has raped the earth of minerals like coltran so that they can further develop smart articles, i.e. mobile phones et cetera. While doing so, they are sponsoring slave labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where most coltran is mined. I live in a world where science and technology has developed other needs that require extreme mining procedures that destroy mountains, pollute rivers and poison wildlife. I live in a world where science and technology has built and developed weapons that can easily be used to wipe us all back to the neolithic age.

So I don’t really put my faith in science. I am grateful for the advances of the medical sciences. Now we live longer lives. But I am furious with governments that do not allow these beneficiaries of a long life to enjoy their old age with money and dignity. I don’t like the fact that those who develop technology tell us that they are doing it for the better good of all while they become the richest men in the world. And we don’t even know if things like 5G can actually harm us.

But those who control the economy control progress. That is why I don’t believe in progress because progress seems to be only for the upper one percent. The ninety nine remaining must pay for progress and never profit and never progress.

So I believe in life. I believe in quality of life. I believe in peace. I believe in unity. And I thoroughly believe what the Beatles said a long, long, time ago:

“ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED.” (Lennon/McCartney from the song “All You Need is Love” Yellow Submarine album, 1967)

The Beatles represented Britain in the “Our World” project, playing and recording live, “All You Need is Love.” Our World was the first worldwide televised special and broadcast to 24 countries on 25 June, 1967. The Beatles began writing this song in May, 1967, wanting to create a song that could be understood by people of all nations. It was mostly written by John Lennon.

During the 1960’s “All you Need is Love” was a popular saying, especially within the many opposed to the Vietnam war. The song was a big part of the 1967 “Summer of Love.” It began with a clip from “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg, on 25 April, 1792. The anthem, of course, is a rallying call to war that was first sung by the French troops coming to Paris from Marseilles, which gave the name that the anthem now has.

In 1981, George Harrison wrote a song to remember John Lennon, who was assasinated on the 8th of December, 1980, called “All Those Years Ago.” The song has a line which says to John that you, “…point the way to the truth when you say ‘All you need is love.'” John was killed in front of his flat in the Dakota building in New York. He was shot five times by an entity I will not even mention. All I can add here is that I abhor the violence of North American cities. I don’t believe people should carry guns.

I leave you, hoping that you nourish thoughts about such things as our world and other important things, with these words John Lennon wrote for “All You Need is Love:”

There’s nothing you can known that isn’t known/Nothing you can see that isn’t shown/Nowhere you can go that isn’t where you’re meant to be/It’s easy/All you need is love.”

Thank you for liking, sharing and following…if you like what I post. I am an artist living and working in Valencia, Spain and if you want to get to know a little more about my paintings and drawings, please visit my Instagram @Francisco_Bravo_Cabrera and you can see my 2019 collection of “JaZzArt en Valencia” by going to http://www.ArtPal.com/rfbravo1155