Ben Sidran

gig | Madison - Ardells (with Steve Miller & Boz Scaggs)
photo | Ben in ‘63
photo | Ben on Union terrace
photo | Ben on Union Terrace 2
photo | At a Paris Cafe
photo | London with Jann Wenner
album | Feel Your Groove
writing | Feel Your Groove: Lyrics
photo | Capitol sessions 1
photo | Capitol sessions 3
photo | Capitol sessions 4
photo | Capitol sessions 5
album | I Lead a Life
production | Journey From Eden / Steve Miller
conversation | Glyn Johns
writing | I Lead A Life: Lyrics
writing | Black Talk: Book
photo | Madison sessions 1
photo | Madison sessions 2
writing | Putting In Time On Planet Earth: Lyrics
production | Sylvester And The Hot Band
album | Puttin’ In Time On Planet Earth
conversation | Mick Jagger
production | Tell Me the Truth / Jon Hendricks
photo | Tony Williams in Boston 1
album | Don’t Let Go
writing | Don’t Let Go: Lyrics
photo | With Jane Fonda 1
photo | Bob Krasnow in Chicago
photo | Ibiza 1
photo | Ibiza 2
photo | With Jon Hendricks
album | Free in America
photo | Unknown Stage shot ‘75
photo | Madison Back Yard
photo | Winter 1976
photo | Bicentenial Bebop Band
gig | Long Island, NY - My Father’s Place
writing | Free In America: Lyrics
photo | San Francisco ‘76, 3
photo | Sing Me A Jazz Song Rehearsal
photo | Sing Me A Jazz Song Taping 1
photo | Sing Me A Jazz Song Rehearsal 3
photo | Sing Me A Jazz Song Rehearsal 4
gig | New York, The Bottom Line
album | A Little Kiss in the Night
photo | With Michael Franks, 1977
photo | Church Key
album | The Doctor is In
gig | Minneapolis - UofM
video | Germany, Music Laden “Broad Daylight”
writing | A Little Kiss In The Night: Lyrics
writing | Live At Montreux: Lyrics
album | Live at Montreux
photo | Montreux, Switzerland
photo | Montreux Performance
writing | The Doctor is In: Lyrics
conversation | Danny Richmond
gig | Tokyo, Theater
photo | Los Angeles promo shoot
writing | The Cat And The Hat: Lyrics
gig | Madison, Bunky’s (Trio)
album | The Cat and The Hat
photo | The Cat and the Hat posse
production | Pat MacDonald
photo | Perched on a chair
photo | Ben and Bunky Green
photo | Leo and Ben on stage
video | Willebskis Film with Archie Shepp “Willow Weep For Me”
photo | At Carnegie Hall
photo | Tim Hauser of the Manhattan Transfer and Ben
photo | Ensmeble singing “Oo Pa Pa Da”
photo | Richie Cole and Ben after the show
photo | Ben and Al Jarreau
photo | Ben and Al Jarreau
video | In Holland, “Charlie’s Blues”
gig | San Francisco, Keystone Korner (Kuartet)
photo | Musicians and promoters in Phoenix
video | Ben Island Promo
video | WHA TV, “Charlie’s Blues”
album | Old Songs for the New Depression
photo | “Old Songs” recording session
video | The Jazz Life featuring Richie Cole
writing | Old Songs For The New Depression: Lyrics
video | The Jazz Life featuring Mike Mainieri
conversation | Jesse Hill
conversation | Freddie Hubbard
conversation | Ben on WBCY
album | Bop City
photo | Talking with the piano
photo | Talking with the piano
photo | Street scene, San Francisco
conversation | Ben on KJAZ
photo | Born in Chicago
gig | Alaska, Fly By Nightclub - 1982 Quartet
photo | London promo shot for “Bopcity”
photo | London promo shot for “Bopcity”
album | Get to the Point
writing | Bob City: Lyrics
photo | Bopcity Band
photo | Ben and Richard in the museum
video | Since I Fell For You
photo | Tokyo photo
photo | Tokyo photo
photo | Ben and Archie Shepp
gig | Boulder, Conference on World Affairs with Spike Robinson, Dave Grusin
photo | Summers end in Minneapolis
photo | Summers end in Minneapolis
conversation | John Scofield Talking Jazz
gig | Chicago, Orphans Club
conversation | Dr. John Talking Jazz
photo | Ben and Dr. John
conversation | Art Blakey Talking Jazz
conversation | Freddie Hubbard Talking Jazz
photo | Ben and Richard Davis
photo | Ben and Richard Davis
photo | Ben and Richard Davis
album | Live at the Elvehjem
production | Night Watch / Ricky Peterson
gig | Alaska, Fly By Nightclub - Organ Quartet
video | Ben Sidran and Richard Davis, Jazz Class on Wisconsin Public TV - 1985
photo | Dr. John at the piano
conversation | Tony Williams Talking Jazz
conversation | Branford Marsalis Talking Jazz
photo | Ben interviewing Chick Corea
album | On the Cool Side
conversation | Jon Hendricks Talking Jazz
conversation | Sonny Rollins Talking Jazz
conversation | Dizzy Gillespie Talking Jazz
photo | Ben interviewing Rudy Van Gelder
writing | Graven Images Article
conversation | Wynton Marsalis Talking Jazz
conversation | Max Roach Talking Jazz
conversation | Miles Davis Talking Jazz
photo | Ben Sidran comes to Sydney
photo | Recording “On the Live Side”
photo | Recording “On the Live Side”
photo | Recording “On the Live Side”
video | Ben On the Live Side - Complete Concert
gig | Boulder, Conference on World Affairs - with Spike Robinson
gig | Sidney, The Basement
production | Pop Bop / Richie Cole
photo | Ben with Dave Brubeck and Marion McPartland
production | Ever Since the World Ended / Mose Allison
conversation | Gil Evans Talking Jazz
album | On the Live Side
writing | Have You Met Barcelona
album | Have You Met in Barcelona
photo | Ben in Nancy, France
conversation | Ben on France Musique
photo | In Bordeau with Leo
photo | Billy and Ben on the boulevard
photo | Don Cherry and Ben
conversation | Herbie Hancock Talking Jazz
conversation | Joe Sample Talking Jazz
production | Spread Your Wings / Clementine
production | Sarah Jane Morris
photo | The band lands in Japan
video | Tokyo, Bravas Club “Straight No Chaser”
video | Tokyo, Bravas Club “Have You Met Miss Jones”
production | Signature / Richie Cole
photo | Leo checks out the Hollywood action
photo | A diverse cast of characters following the gig
photo | Ben, Richie and Janis
photo | Ben and Richard Davis
gig | Minneapolis, Lake Harriett (feat. Steve Miller)
production | Born 2 B Blue / Steve Miller
writing | On The Live Side: Lyrics
photo | Hanging with the Little Giant
photo | Ben with Ben Riley and Johnny Griffin on the Ramblas
photo | Hanging with the Little Giant
photo | Johnny and Ben just before a take
photo | Ben and Johnny Griffin
conversation | George Benson Talking Jazz
conversation | Betty Carter Talking Jazz
gig | Minneapolis, NY’s Eve with Richie Cole
writing | Too Hot to Touch: Lyrics
conversation | Johnny Griffin Talking Jazz
photo | With Karim Abdul-Jabaar in his den
album | Too Hot to Touch
photo | At the festival in Vienne, France
conversation | Michel Petrucciani Talking Jazz
conversation | Ben at Stevens Point
photo | Ben, Bill Cosby and producer Mike Simon
conversation | Donald Fagen Talking Jazz
video | With Steve Miller “Just A Little Bit”
photo | Johnny Copland and Ben on set
photo | In the green room before the taping.
photo | Ben and Charles Wright of the Watts 103rd Street Band
photo | Steve Miller and I share a moment
photo | Miller loves to clown
photo | At the piano with Steve
photo | On stage with Ricky Peterson
photo | Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts and Ben
photo | French singer Clementine and Ben
photo | French singer Clementine and Ben
conversation | Steve Gadd Talking Jazz
video | Rome, D.O.C. “Mitsubishi Boy”
production | Smile Blue / Ricky Peterson
production | My Backyard / Mose Allison
video | Australia Don Lane Show “Girl Talk”
photo | Ben delivering the news
photo | Ben and Billy considering the options
photo | Ben bunnies Steve
photo | It’s an old show-biz lick: I cool him off while he heats up the strings
photo | Surrendering to the rock and roll cosmos
photo | Spacing out in the fog
photo | Standing in Frank Lloyd Wright’s living room
writing | Cool Paradise: Lyrics
album | Cool Paradise
production | Mood Swing / Bob Malach
production | Cool Cat Blues / Georgie Fame
video | Australia With Crossfire “Everything Happens To Me”
gig | Anchorage Performing Arts Center
photo | Bob, Gordy, Billy and Ben
photo | Leo plays the soundcheck with the Miller Band
photo | Has the crowd turned its back on me or have I turned my back on them?
photo | In Maine, wearing protection from the mosquitos
photo | Bobby Malach’s “Mood Swing” musicians
photo | Georgie and Ben discussing the playback of “I Love the Life I Live”
photo | Georgie, Ben and Richard Tee going over the charts
photo | Ben, Georgie, Steve and Richard in the control room
photo | Japan Go Jazz promo shot
photo | Japan Go Jazz promo shot
gig | Tokyo, Club Quattro - with the GoJazz Allstars
video | Go Jazz Allstars in Tokyo “Lip Service”
video | Go Jazz Allstars in Tokyo - Complete Concert
production | The Go Jazz Allstars / Live In Japan
production | The Blues And Me / Georgie Fame
production | Whatever Happened to the Blues / Phil Upchurch
photo | Ben, Doctor John, Georgie Fame
photo | Georgie Fame, Paul Shaffer and Ben
photo | Tommy LiPuma and Ben
photo | Time out for a family moment
photo | Clyde Stubblefield and Michael Bland
photo | Blind Lemon (Les McCann) and Ben
photo | Ben, Gavin Christopher, Phil and Chaka Kahn
writing | Talking Jazz: Book
production | Natural Woman / Giorgia
photo | Ben and Oscar Brown Jr.
photo | Ben with Pops and Mavis Staples
photo | Ben with Pops and Mavis Staples
production | Dragonfly Summer / Michael Franks
photo | Ben in the window
photo | Ben in the window
photo | Ben in the window
photo | Ben casting a large shadow
photo | Dan Hicks, Michael Franks and Ben
production | Stolen Moments / The Lady Sings Jazz and Blues / Diana Ross
production | Gege and the Boparazzi
video | Rome with Roberto Gatto and Stefano di Battista “Straight No Chaser”
photo | Gil Goldstein
photo | Bob Mintzer
photo | Lee Konitz
photo | The Boparazzi crew
production | Clementine Sings Ben Sidran
video | Talking Jazz Book Reading, Madison
writing | The Jazz Of Stuart Davis - Article
conversation | Tommy Lipuma
production | The Earth Wants You / Mose Allison
conversation | Ben and Peter on Hoop Dreams
production | Oh! / Will Lee
photo | Promoting something (I forget)
photo | Ben in between takes
production | A Tear Can Tell / Ricky Peterson
video | Ben on CBS Sunday Morning for “Life’s a Lesson”
album | Life’s a Lesson
production | The Searcher / Bob Malach
video | Gege Telesforo featuring Jon Hendricks and Clark Terry “Mumbles” - GoJazz Artists Series
photo | Go Jazz Allstars in Japan
photo | Ben in the control room
conversation | Ben on KCRW
production | Love Is Strange / Phil Upchurch
gig | Madison, Cafe Montmartre - with Gege Telesforo
photo | Ben in the dark 1
production | Tell Me Something: The Songs Of Mose Allison
video | Madison, Union Terrace with Frank Morgan “Kansas City”
production | The Mother Tongue / Gege
writing | Mr. P’s Shuffle: Lyrics
album | Mr. P’s Shuffle
video | Ohne Filter “Too Hot To Touch”
photo | Go Jazz Allstars in Germany
photo | At La Villa, rue Jacob, Paris
photo | At La Villa, rue Jacob, Paris
photo | At La Villa, rue Jacob, Paris
gig | Madison, Cafe Montmartre - with Bob Malach, Mel Ford, Ricky Peterson
conversation | Mose Allison - Sentient Meat
photo | Clyde Stubblefield, Frank Morgan, Richard Davis and Ben
photo | Ben outside the club
photo | Ben and Roscoe Mitchell
production | Solita / Clementine
video | Ben Sidran, Georgie Fame, Van Morrison, Mose Allison “Tell Me Something”
production | When the Wind Was Cool / Dominique Eade
photo | With Mose Allison in London
photo | Ben and Leo in Washington D.C.
photo | The Celebrity Lounge
photo | Ben and Richard Davis at the performance
photo | Paul Motian, Mose and Ratso Harris
production | Gimcracks and Gewgaws / Mose Allison
conversation | Quincy Jones
production | Rhapsody And Blues / Phil Upchurch
album | Live at the Celebrity Lounge
conversation | Frank Morgan
conversation | Bob Dorough
production | Live At The Quest / The Minneapolis Allstars
photo | Promo shots in Paris
photo | The band at Orchestra Hall, Chicago
conversation | Phil Woods
photo | Ben playing Lorca’s piano
production | L Sid / Leo Sidran
photo | Ben and Leo in Amsterdam
video | Go Jazz Allstars Ohne Filter “Mr. Ps Shuffle”
photo | Recording “Poet In New York” with Georgie Fame
photo | The gathering of the tribes on the East side of Madison
photo | The gathering of the tribes on the East side of Madison
production | Vietnam Long Time Coming
album | The Concert for Garcia Lorca
conversation | Van Morrison
production | New Train / Paul Pena
production | Poet In New York / Georgie Fame
production | It’s Like This / Rickie Lee Jones
video | Spain Lo Mas Plus with Leo Sidran “Sevillanas / Huerto”
photo | London club night with Tony Bennett
photo | John Pizzarelli, Ben, Rickie Lee Jones
video | Conference On World Affairs “A Good Travel Agent”
production | Conversations With Michel / Bob Malach
production | The Mose Chronicles Vol. 1 / Mose Allison
production | Hoop Dreams
production | El Elefante / Ben and Leo Sidran
video | Barlow Planetarium Lecture
album | Walk Pretty
video | Madrid, Cafe Central - with Quintet featuring Bob Malach and Gege Telesforo
conversation | Ben in Barcelona
photo | Ben in London
photo | Ben and band in London
video | Osaka Blue Note “Walk Pretty”
photo | Ben. Tammy Baldwin, and the former president
photo | Ben at Motion Blue, Yokohama, Japan
photo | Ben at Motion Blue, Yokohama, Japan
production | The Original / Clyde Stubblefield
video | Encore In Yokohama
conversation | Ben on Area Reservada
photo | El Elefante cover photo shoot
conversation | Ben on TTBOOK
production | Bob’s Ben / Bob Rockwell
photo | The gig starts at 8:15
gig | Madison, Union Theater (Jewish Music Concert)
video | Germany, Music Planet “You Can’t Judge A Book”
video | Germany, Music Planet with Georgie Fame “Symphony Sid”
photo | After show party in Madrid
video | Go Jazz Allstars in Berlin
photo | Ben in Rome 3
video | Ben Making Nick’s Bump Drink
gig | Bayfield, Wisconsin - Big Top Chataqua - with Jorge Drexler
production | Bohemia / Leo Sidran
photo | Nicks Bumps Band in the studio
photo | Nicks Bumps Band in the studio
album | Nick’s Bump
production | Dissertation on the State of Bliss / Tom Wopat
writing | Ben Sidran A Life in the Music: Book
photo | Barcelona pub crawl through the Gotico
photo | At the Blue Note in Milan, Italy
photo | Cruising with Molly the Poodle
photo | Ben and Shirley Manson backstage
photo | Cleveland celebrates its native son
photo | The Cafe Montmartre vibe
photo | Cruising with Molly the Poodle
photo | Outside the Blue Note in Fukuoka, Japan
photo | Ben’s birthday in Osaka, Japan
album | Bumpin at the Sunside
photo | Les Paul day in Wisconsin
writing | Bumpin’ at the Sunside: Lyrics
gig | Madison, Jazz at Five - Organ Night Band
photo | Portrait
album | Live a Fip
photo | Ben, Sonny Rollins, Phil Upchurch
photo | Ben with the Funk Allstars
photo | Ben with the Funk Allstars
photo | At book festival in Deia with (L to R) Lucia Graves and Laura Garcia Lorca
photo | At book festival with Cynthia Lennon
photo | On stage with Peter Bogdanovich
photo | On the streets of Barcelona
photo | Ben, Boz and Jorge perform the songs
photo | Boz, Jorge, Ben talk about song writing
gig | Madison, Capitol Theater - with Jorge Drexler, Boz Scaggs
photo | On stage at the Cotton Club
conversation | Ben Sidran Talking Jazz
photo | The Artist Quarter, Minneapolis
production | Talking Jazz Box Set
photo | On stage, Grignan, France
photo | In Morelia, Mexico
photo | On stage at the Jazz Bakery, LA
photo | Out of the pad in Paris
photo | Ben and Georgie
photo | Painting with light
video | Lecture “If You’re Not Having Fun You’re Doing It Wrong”
conversation | Ben on NPR for Talking Jazz
photo | Jazz at 5 in Mad City
gig | Grignan, France
photo | Valencia, Spain
photo | In Soria, Spain
video | Ben Sidran Cien Noches at the Cafe Central, 2007
photo | The hall of mirrors
photo | Local talent
photo | Goodbye
photo | Ben and Georgie
photo | Running the voodoo down on stage
photo | Running the voodoo down on stage
photo | Party geishas in the hotel lobby
photo | The Fame / Sidran Quintet
gig | Tokyo Cotton Club - With Georgie Fame, 2008
gig | NY, Jazz Standard Organ Night
album | Cien Noches
photo | Rome book reading with music
photo | View from the stage, Madrid, Spain
photo | At the Sunset in Paris
photo | Monte Carlo
photo | Monte Carlo
photo | Buddy Greco and Ben
photo | Meanwhile back at the Cotton Club in Tokyo
photo | Meanwhile back at the Cotton Club in Tokyo
gig | Tokyo, Cotton Club - Nardis Review
photo | Rehearsing for the Dylan project with Rodolphe Burger
photo | Mad City autumn
album | Dylan Different
gig | Paris, Sunside - Dylan Different Band
photo | The Hotel Jazz
photo | The cave called The Jamboree in Barcelona
photo | At the Guggenheim in Bilbao
photo | Recording the music for Clementine’s “Going Uptown” album.
conversation | Ben with Bobby Jackson
photo | Ben in Catania
photo | Ben watching soundcheck
photo | A different drummer
photo | The band in black
photo | Man at his best
gig | Sicily, Caltenisseta - Quartet (Dylan Different)
video | Love Minus Zero / Dylan Different Live At The New Morning
photo | At the New Morning, Paris
photo | The Montreal Jazz Festival
video | Minneapolis rehearsal “Highway 61”
gig | Minneapolis, Dakota - Dylan Different
gig | Tokyo, Cotton Club - Dylan Different
photo | My Street
album | Dylan Different Live at the New Morning
gig | Paris, Sunside - Quartet + Rodolphe Burger (FIP Radio Broadcast, Interview and Concert)
production | Going Uptown / Clementine
photo | Peter Straub, Lorrie Moore and Ben at the Algonquin
photo | Ben in Ronciglioni, Italy
photo | Ben in Ronciglioni, Italy
photo | Las Palmas, Canary Islands
photo | Living the Dream
photo | The Blues and the Reds
photo | Just the Blues
gig | Vienna, Porgy and Bess - Quartet (Dylan Different Retirement Party)
gig | Wisconsin Science Festival - The Present Moment (with Richie Davidson)
video | Wisconsin Science Festival with Richie Davidson, “Present Moment”
video | Private Guy Original Demo
writing | There Was a Fire: Book
photo | Distinguished Alumnus
gig | Madison, Wisconsin Science Festival - with Richie Davidson
video | Phoenix, Musical Instrument Museum - Jews, Music and the American Dream - Performance and Lecture
gig | Fall Book Tour 2012: Oct 13-November 8
video | Wisconsin Book Festival - Jews, Music and the American Dream
photo | A Paris Portrait
photo | Take me to the Bridge
conversation | Ben Sidran Radio: Episode 1
writing | Don’t Cry For No Hipster: Lyrics
conversation | Ben with Gary Walker on WBGO for “Jews, Music and the American Dream”
video | New York, Center for Jewish History - Jews as culture brokers
conversation | Ben Sidran Radio: Episode 2
conversation | Ben with Dave Iverson on KQED for “Jews, Music and the American Dream”
album | Don’t Cry For No Hipster
gig | SPRING 2013 Gigs
photo | Yoshis, Oakland
conversation | Ben on KCSM “Desert Island”
photo | New York Masterminds: With Mark Ruffin and Tommy LiPuma
video | The Pace Report: “The Educated Hipster”
photo | Barbes, Brooklyn
video | Tokyo Cotton Club “The King Of Harlem”
photo | Backstage in Tokyo
conversation | Ben Sidran Radio: Episode 4
conversation | Ben on WTF with Marc Maron
gig | FALL 2013 GIGS
video | Paris, Sunset - “Groove Is Gonna Get You Through Times Of No Money”
photo | Barcelona, Jamboree - Quartet
video | Atlanta Jewish Music Festival - Jews, Music and the American Dream
video | New School For Jazz - Eyes of the Masters presentation
photo | The Seine Changes
video | TedX - Embrace Your Inner Hipster
video | Dee’s Dilemma - recording session
video | Blue Camus EPK
album | Blue Camus
writing | Blue Camus Lyrics
video | Ben on One Shot Not with Manu Katché
writing | A Life In The Music - Audio Book
video | 2015 The Literary Year
writing | Talking Jazz With Ben Sidran Volume 1
writing | Talking Jazz With Ben Sidran Volume 1
writing | Talking Jazz With Ben Sidran Volume 2
gig | Copenhagen Jazzhus Montmartre
video | Blacks, Jews and the American Dream
conversation | Third Story Podcast: Welcome To Copenhagen
conversation | Third Story Podcast: Inspiration comes from Life at the Newport Jazz Festival
video | Rockburn Presents Ben Sidran
video | Jazz Music Use It or Lose It
video | National Writers Series
gig | FALL GIGS 2015
photo | Cats in Paris
gig | Paris Sunside
conversation | What Paris Felt Like
photo | With Paquito D’Rivera
video | “Picture Him Happy” live in Brooklyn
gig | SUMMER 2016 GIGS
video | Ben on Bird
writing | Picture Him Happy Lyrics
gig | FALL 2016 GIGS
video | Picture Him Happy EPK
video | Picture Him Happy - Lyric Video + Nightclub Intro
album | Picture Him Happy
video | MILES DAVIS on Dizzy & Drawing
gig | SPRING 2017 GIGS
The Jazz Of Stuart Davis - Article
Year: 2016

The Jazz Of Stuart Davis - Article

The Jazz Of Stuart Davis

This Stuart Davis image, Owh! In San Pao, was used as the cover for the first edition of Ben’s 1993 book of conversations with jazz musicians, Talking Jazz.  In 1997, Ben was commissioned to write an essay on Davis’ relationship with jazz for the catalog accompanying the Stuart Davis exhibition at the Guggenheim in Venice, Italy; the essay was again revisited in 2016 for the Davis retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the de Young Museum in San Francisco

 

THE JAZZ OF STUART DAVIS 

by Ben Sidran

 

Jazz music sprung seemingly full-blown from the soil around the turn of the century.  Nobody knows exactly when or where it arrived, but there is much speculation about how and why the blue notes and field chants and quadrilles and ragtime all came together, not in some kind of magical big-bang, but organically, in a kind of musical primordial ooze, formed from the great fecundity of the American culture. 

Some pinpoint the origins of this music at New Orleans, and certainly the Crescent City was the Rift Valley of jazz evolution, both the “home of the blues” and a place, before the US Government shut down the French Quarter in 1917, where the red light district was a twenty-four hour party driven by flamboyant marching bands and brilliant piano players.  The plain truth, however, is that jazz was brewing everywhere, all across the country, especially in the rapidly expanding urban ghettos where a critical mass of African-Americans had enough loose change to make playing an instrument a supportable avocation.  Not a career as such but certainly a way of life. 

The musician articulated the news of the day in black America, and as the African-American community spread northward, in his hands the news emerged as a song, a sob, or a reason to have a party.  Because of the optimism and drive of this music -- and in the context of the wringing poverty all around -- his was both the voice of hope and of reason.  The jazzman resolved the inequities of daily life, and did it nightly. At the barrooms, social halls and rent-parties all across the landscape, in New York, Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, folks used to say “I love the blues, they hurts so nice.” 

Of course, there was no pretense of “art” at the time.  In fact, not many Americans of the day would have recognized this outpouring of expression as “real music” let alone “art music”.  It wasn’t even called “jazz” back then. “Jazz” was a word unused in proper society, slang for what went on in the bed room, which is why it ultimately came to describe this music too, for jazz was born in the brothels and gin joints and “house parties”, where strangers came in off the streets and paid a quarter to drink and get happy. A solitary piano player, sometimes joined by a drum or a trumpet, would rock the house, inventing music out of nothing, pulling snakes and great clouds of joy from thin air while the crowd shouted, “you got it!” and “that’s it, man!”  The piano played the “blue” notes of the guitar or the human voice by rubbing a major and a minor third together, resulting in a clash that is a flagrant violation of Western classical harmony and which, therefore, became the hallmark of “ragtime” piano, and later, “jazz”.

Back in 1912, however, the music was probably still called “barrel house” or “honky tonk”, when a young Stuart Davis with his pal Glenn Coleman prowled the rough bars of Newark searching out this organic scene.  They were, in his phrase, “particularly hep to the jive”.  What is remarkable is that, at the time, there was no jazz available on phonograph records (this was still several years off) and there was virtually no way a couple of young white boys could even know about its existence, let alone its power.  But these rough bars in Newark became the crucible from which the soul of a young artist was cast.  It was here in the heat of the creative moment that the real world and the world of abstraction came together for Stuart Davis.

“These saloons catered to the poorest Negroes”, Davis remembered, “and outside of beer, a favorite drink was a glass of gin with a cherry in it which sold for five cents.  The pianists were unpaid, playing for love or art alone.  In one place, the piano was covered on top and sides with
barbed wire to discourage lounging and leaning on it, and give the performer more scope while at work.  But the big point with us was that in all of these places you could hear the blues, or tin-pan alley tunes turned into real music, for the cost of a five cent beer.”  

Tin-pan alley tunes “turned into real music”: this is the key.  For what is “real” is not always what it appears to be -- indeed, is often quite other.  What is real is often what is “remembered” to be, the essence of the moment, not the moment itself.  Art, then, is the lie that tells the truth.  And while tin-pan alley songs were the actual, or literal, artifacts of the day -- just as the gas pumps and street signs that Davis painted were the visual artifacts of the day -- the Negro musicians invented their own way of preserving the everyday essence of mundane songs while, at the same time, exalting their purposes, molding them into something personal, something beautiful, something undeniably modern.

Many years later, Davis would say, “My attitude toward life is realistic.  But realism doesn’t include merely what one immediately sees with the eye at a given moment.  One also relates it to past experience, one relates it to feelings, ideas and what is real about that experience is the totality of the awareness of it.  So I call it realism.  By realism I don’t mean realism in any photographic sense.  Certainly not.”  

For the whole of his creative life, Davis would disdain mere abstraction in art and prefer to think of his work as having, “A realism that every man on the street has the potential to see.  But in order to see, would have to see it in himself first.  Would have to give value to those qualities which an artist gives...to whatever is the artist in him.”   And, when pressed on the subject, he referred to this quality of being “able to see” as being “hip”, a term he said he learned “in the jazz bars and saloons”. 

This new jazz music was straight off the streets.  It was the people’s music.  There was no distinction between high or low art in the protean world of jazz, just as there were no such distinctions at the Henri school, where Davis absorbed the tenets of a radical, anti-academic perspective on painting.  There, he reported, art was “not a matter of rules and techniques...it was the expression of ideas and emotions about the life of the time...the idea was to avoid mere factual statement and find ways to get down some of the qualities of memory and imagination involved in the perception of it. It took art off the academic pedestal and, by affirming its origin in the life of the day, developed a critical sense toward social values in the student.”   Therefore, as in jazz, “any preconceived ideas about racial, national or class superiorities could not thrive in its atmosphere.” 

Indeed, Stuart Davis went beyond a mere egalitarianism to see the world of black music as a kind of metaphor for the plight of the arts in America. As he wrote to a jazz critic in the 1940’s, “This discrimination against Negroes as a race, which has also included the Negro as an artist, is the fate of most genuine artists, regardless of race or class.  It is a simple fact that most people, without relation to their social or economic status, do not give art a place of importance in their living scheme.  Their indifference to the great Negro bands and solo artists remains the same when they are confronted with a modern painting.”   

Often, during key moments of his career, Davis returned to the imagery of jazz to describe his situation.  A striking example was the remark he later made about his experience of attending the famous 1913 Armory Show, where, for the first time, he saw the paintings of the European Fauvists and Cubists en masse.  Immediately, he sensed an “objective order”, particularly in  Gauguin and Matisse, that gave him “the same kind of excitement I got from the numerical precision of the Negro piano players...and I resolved that I would quite definitely have to become a ‘modern’ artist.”   To Davis, jazz was a paradigm of modern creation.

One could speculate that jazz might literally have acted as a catalyst for him, particularly the music of pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines, his favorite musician from the late 20s until his death.  Hines’ flashing, angular lines, and especially the clusters of colors and trills that he threw off so effortlessly, had their analog in the high key colors of Davis’s work.  And Stuart Davis did, on occasion, connect his own painting directly to various jazz techniques.  For example, of the painting “Hot Still-Scape In Six Colors -- Seventh Ave.Style”, he wrote that “six colors were used ...as the instruments in a musical composition might be, where the tone-color variety results from the simultaneous juxtaposition of different instrument groups.”    If one wanted to be literal, one could say that his colors were his chord voicings, and the juxtaposition of planar surfaces his harmonic structures.  

For what a jazzman does in his “spontaneous composition” is take the standard chord changes from popular song -- the planar surfaces of the song -- and work his way through and around these sign posts, these “objects” of everyday experience.  It is not the objects themselves that are important but the way in which the musician weaves his tale.  Gradually, a great player develops a way of doing it, a gesture that is recognizable as his own path through the harmonic underbrush.  That same gesture can then be extracted and used in a new context in future compositions, so that ultimately, even though he is still working on a solution to the problems inherent in playing, for example, the second four bars of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”, it sounds nothing at all like that song.  The chord changes become his excuse to make and remake that particular gesture, to reexperience the feeling that was there the first time.  In time, alternate chords are substituted for the standard ones, like new planes of existence, and additions, refinements, and extrapolations are added.  But still, one is essentially working on the memory of those four bars from “I Got Rhythm”.

Just so, just as a chord sequence from a standard song can be resolved in any number of ways and then reinserted into a future composition, so too Stuart Davis used the reduced essence of ordinary things -- a schooner’s mast, an egg beater -- over and over again in new ways.  These then became the chord changes of his own compositions.  While the high key colors became his “tone”, the sound of his artistic voice, the planar surfaces became his harmonic structure, his compositional signature.

Stuart Davis often, perhaps inadvertently, described his personal experiences in terms any jazz man can understand. Once, for example, during the 20s, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, after years spent dragging a sketching easel, large canvases and a back pack along with him, “looking for things to paint”, it suddenly dawned on him that “packing and unpacking all this junk” was irrelevant to his purpose.  Subsequently, he went out with only a small sketch book, and the results were both dramatic and freeing.  As he remembered, “It seems that in all this tramping around with full equipment I had actually learned something.  All that I was required to cash in on some of this information was to stop lifting things up and putting them down for a while.”  

Sly humor aside, Davis is reporting a basic tenet of the jazz life: at some point, one must stop studying the information and become the information.  A jazzman might say, as Charlie Parker once did,  “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”  As the practice of art is transformative, so the music is a by-product of this transformation.

During the 20s, after Davis finally stopped dragging the easel to the sea coast, he began using the schooner in new, unimagined ways. “In abandoning the weighty apparatus of the outdoor painter, I did not at the same time abandon nature as subject matter,” he wrote.  “My studio pictures were all from drawings made directly from nature.  As I had learned in painting outdoors to use a conceptual instead of an optical perspective, so, in my studio compositions, I brought drawings of different places and things into a single focus.  The necessity to select and define the spatial limits of these separate drawings, in relation to the unity of the whole picture, developed an objective attitude toward the size and shape relations.  Having already achieved this objectivity to a degree in relation to color, the two ideas had now to be integrated and thought about simultaneously.”  Then, Davis used the musician’s argot to describe the future: “The ‘abstract’ kick was on.”   

For six decades, jazz fueled the art of Stuart Davis.  Together, they grew up, matured, became sophisticated.  But always, they kept the pulse of the people on the street, and in the little clubs and hangouts where the real news was being passed along.  By the 40s, Davis had gravitated to musicians, like George Wettling of the Eddie Condon mob, who had their own scene and stood for anti-commercial, small combo jazz, and stayed liberally doused with portions of straight whiskey.  They talked a hip dialect designed, in part, to exclude those who weren’t initiated or “in the know”, and were notoriously unable to feign accommodation for middle class opinions on any subject. Davis’ own speech was a wonderful melange of intellectual gambit and jazz slang, a Damon-Runion-esque drawl that matched the sly humor of his work with a deep affection for the musicians’ scene. These social pioneers held forth in rooms large and small, uptown and down, from Harlem to The Village, overhung with a pall of bluish smoke, the blurred hum of conversation and the insistent musings of a good jazz band. 

And if, in Davis’ term, the artist’s canvas was “a cool spot in a hot environment”, the music continued throughout his career to be the fire that kept the pots boiling.  Like the musicians around him, he continued to challenge the supremacy of European tradition, redefining modernism with a thoroughly American humor and spirit.  And like those jazz musicians, he persevered in the face of yawning indifference from the critical establishment for many years.  For just as the academies were slow to pick up on Stuart Davis, so too jazz was a cultural stepchild in the “legitimate” press until well into the 1930s.  Perhaps Rudy Vallee, the musical idol of the day, spoke for most Americans when he said, “I have no definite conception of what ‘jazz’ is, but I believe it should be applied to the weird orchestral efforts of various bands up in Harlem. They have a style all their own, and at times it seems as though pandemonium had broken loose.  Most of the time there is no distinguishable melody....it is absolutely impossible for even a musical ear to tell the name of the piece”   That review, with the substitution of a very few words, might well have been written around the same time by an American art critic about the work of Stuart Davis.

And yet, both Davis and the music he loved prevailed and were vindicated.  Jazz supplanted the European tradition and, ultimately, found it’s analog in Davis’ paintings, particularly such masterpieces as “Rapt at Rappaports” and “Owh! in San Pao”. Davis’ hip visual poetry created an iconographic language, composed of hot colors and modern slang, that captured the harmonic rubs and angular, syncopated grooves of the music he loved.  It was as if jazz had come to three-dimensional life through his art. 

In his diary of 11 October, 1948, Stuart Davis wrote, “Art...has nothing to do with Logic or Sensibility.  It has to do with Intuitive impulse carried out as an Act.  The Act is the Fact, and all the Art quality is in it.”  Nothing could sum up the spirit of jazz more succinctly.