Last spring Wynton Marsalis invited me to join him and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on the road for a week of concerts in the South. The schedule took us through Louisville KY, Meridian MS, Nashville TN, Asheville NC, Savannah and Atlanta GA. Six concerts in seven days. It was such a pleasure to hear this band every night for a week, and it was an honor to hang out with these extraordinary musicians. The road teaches many lessons, I tried to keep my eyes and ears open, and not get in the way....
Wynton and I met on a poster project in 1990 and we have maintained a friendship over the years. We collaborated on a book about jazz musicians "Jazz ABZ" published by Candlewick Press in 2005. (The book makes a nice gift.) He has a list of about 100 things he's working on at any time, but he loves getting out on the road. There's a strict schedule and structure to follow, but like the music, there is also room for improvisation and some mischief. I sense that he loves being out here with the guys, playing music, meeting people and spreading the feeling of jazz around the country. Years ago Dizzy Gillespie's manager told me that once when Wynton and Dizzy's United Nations Orchestra were in the same town, Wynton asked to sit in with the band on his night off. He didn't want to take any solos, he just wanted to sit in the trumpet section and play for a night....
Each afternoon there’s a soundcheck at 4 pm. The band runs through 4-5 songs, and reviews anything that may be presenting a problem. David Robinson, the soundman adjusts the microphones for the best sound for each hall. I never hear anything that doesn’t sound great. The musician’s personalities are reflected in their casual dress between concerts. Sweatsuits and various styles of hats that can tell a careful observer something about the musician and how he’s feeling that day....
Dan Nimmer is always the first one to sit down and warm up. Each venue has its own piano, so he must get comfortable with different instrument each night. He’s 25 years old and he plays with a sense of swing that you might not think was possible if you met him on the street. He told me that when he was a ten-year-old kid in Wisconsin, he’d sneak out of bed at night and practice by placing his hands on the keys and playing silently without pressing down....
Soundcheck, Opera House in Meridian MS...
There’s a lot of time to kill backstage and chess is played by a number of the guys at a very high level of competion. I hear a lot of bravado, and big talk about who is going to whip who, and tall-tales of past victories, even victories over a musician who is no longer in the band. In fact, I notice these tales of monumental conquest seem to grow with the defeated players absense. ...
Joe Temperly plays the gigiantic baritone saxophone, and is the elder stateman of the band. He replaced the legendary Harry Carney in Duke Ellington’s band in the 1970’s and he carries that legacy to JALCO with dignity and style. Joe’s solo on “My Funny Valentine” is, for me, a highlight each night. I can tell from the looks on the guys faces when he’s playing how much they all admire
and love Joe....
The hour before the concert reminds me of batting practice before a major-league game. Everyone has their own routine, Brooks Brothers suits are ironed with various degrees of concern for personal appearance, horns are unpacked. The guys joke, or walk around slowly, concentrating on their tone, lost in thought....
Backstage at The Savannah Music Festival...
Some nights I’d get a ticket to sit out front with the audience, but I actually preferred finding a spot backstage and watching from the wings. I missed hearing a lot of great musicians who played before my time: Art Blakey, Count Basie, Duke, Bird, Charles Mingus. But sitting in the wings and listening to this band, I feel extremely lucky to be around today hearing this music. ...
In every town we visit I sense a feeling of community that has been built up by the band’s past visits. There’s always a few guests and young musicians sitting backstage, looking in from the wings. Many of the guys in today’s band have grown up doing this exact thing....
After the concert, family, friends and fans come backstage. Young musicians nervously approach the guys, and I hear a lot of impromtu lessons and words of encouragement being given. I saw Carlos Henriquez give a young bass player his phone number and instructions to call him anytime. These musicians are extemely generous and kind, and I know a few words from them can make somebody’s week.
I'll post some more drawings from the tour in my next article. Thanks to Lou Brooks, who saw these drawings and invited me to join you all at Drawger. I've been stalking this site for a while and there are so many artists here that I admire. I'm looking forward to being part of the scene....
Mr Rogers, welcome welcome.
that is a really great opener.
(you'll see by the way how difficult it is to keep hitting winners post after post....)
Welcome to Drawger Paul!
Leo EspinosaOctober 30, 2007
Bienvenido, Paul, and what a way to start!
You made me pull out a Wycliffe Gordon + Eric Reed record I haven't listen in years... now where's my pen and ink?
Scott BakalOctober 30, 2007
Welcome Paul! Nice to see you here. Great first post and can't wait to see more!
Rob DunlaveyOctober 30, 2007
What a wonderful post. It reminds me a little of that great children's book illustrated by Mark Simont "The Philharmonic Gets Dressed".
Welcome to Drawger Paul, I love your work.
Bob StaakeOctober 30, 2007
really wonderful, paul! you've got me smiling here!
David FlahertyOctober 30, 2007
Purdy stuff, Paul.
Robert SaundersOctober 30, 2007
Paul, this is a subject close to my heart, being a jazz afficianado and player many years now. I admire your grasp of nuances of backstage attitude, guys preparing, biding time before a concert, a side of jazz few see.
Welcome, and congratulations on landing such a cool gig.
MarcOctober 30, 2007
What great drawings, and a terrific story, too. Welcome to Drawger!
J.D. KingOctober 30, 2007
And I'm thinking someone likes David Stone Martin?
barryblittOctober 30, 2007
These drawings are fabulous [I particularly like
the sound-check, but they're all great].
Take the rest of the day off.
WAMOctober 30, 2007
Adam McCauleyOctober 30, 2007
What a great post! Wonderful drawings too, and what a cool thing to do as an illustrator.
Cathleen ToelkeOctober 30, 2007
Welcome to Drawger, Paul! Wonderful drawings and stories. Lots of jazz lovers/musicians here; you're in good company.
Jim PaillotOctober 30, 2007
Welcome to Drawger, Paul. That was a fun read. Love the artwork. Can't wait to see more.
ragOctober 30, 2007
Welcome to Drawger. You certainly spice up the joint!
Nancy StahlOctober 30, 2007
Hi, Paul... I'll add my welcome and thanks for a great post. What is going to happen with this work? Is it for a book or simply the pleasure? Whichever, they are wonderful.
Laura LevineOctober 30, 2007
How GREAT is this post?!! Wonderful fly-on-the-wall reportage/artistry. Gorgeous images.
Why did you go along for the tour? Did you two have a project in mind, or was it purely a busman's holiday?
Oh - and welcome to Drawger!
Sally HeflinOctober 30, 2007
Paul these look great in this media, I like scrolling through the work - it has an archival feel. It would be great to have a soundtrack to accompany it. How is looking at your work different from just looking at photographs? I think the fact that you are author and illustrator makes a difference. We need to pitch it to someone who appreciates the author as well as the artist.
A fan, as always.
Hal MayforthOctober 30, 2007
Welcome aboard, Paul. What a dream gig! I'm curious about your process. Did you sketch on site and finish them at your studio? However you did it, they are stunning.
Larry RossOctober 30, 2007
Very niiiiiice! Welcome aboard!!!
Paul RogersOctober 30, 2007
Thanks everyone for the warm welcome and all the kind words.
Leo - anytime spent listening to Wycliffe Gordon is time well spent.
Rob - I just ordered "The Philharmonic Gets Dressed"
J.D. -You know I love me some DSM. Did you know he was Big Ben Shahn's assistant on his murals for the WPA?
Nancy and Laura - There may be a book project here somewhere, but the trip was a good excuse to go on the road, hang out with the cats, and pretend I was a sideman.
Hal - I took a lot of photos and sketched in a sketchbook. Then, scanned the drawings and a bunch of brushed and sponged textures and put them all together in Illustrator.
Christoph HitzOctober 30, 2007
Welcome to Drawger Paul.
Sensational first post.
Zina SaundersOctober 30, 2007
Welcome! Fantastic art and article. Thanks for coming to Drawger.
Joe CiardielloOctober 30, 2007
Paul, these are fantastic. What a great opportunity. I also really liked your ABZ book. Welcome to Drawger.
Steve BrodnerOctober 31, 2007
Welcome Paul. These really sing. And they have the great feeling of Jazz: free but knowing. And fun. Post tons por favor.
Richard AllenOctober 31, 2007
Smashing work, interesting first post. Greetings, Paul!
David HeatleyOctober 31, 2007
So glad to see your work here. I'll second everything that was said. A wonderfully generous and expansive first post. Looking forward to seeing more of your images and writing as they trickle onto the site.
Alex MurawskiOctober 31, 2007
Wow Paul, what a great story and great drawings to go with it.
Dale StephanosOctober 31, 2007
Paul, what a fantastic introduction! The surprising twists and turns in these drawings are a pitch perfect accompanyment to the music. That last sentence was a bit much, wasn't it. I'm with Blitt - take the rest of the day off. Welcome to Drawger.
Mark FisherOctober 31, 2007
Paul, welcome aboard. Superb work!
John DykesOctober 31, 2007
Cheers! What a fabulous collection and story... I particularily love the Dan Nimmer piece... and 4pm soundcheck.... What a cool profession we are in, don't you think??? Welcome aboard.
Mike MoranNovember 1, 2007
Great work and first post. Welcome to Drawger.
Dan McGowanNovember 7, 2007
Hey, I knew this guy named Paul Rogers when I was a kid - he was also an artist. Only you're a lot better than him. Nice work, as always...
Greg NewboldNovember 20, 2007
Paul, Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your presentation at Castle Green for the Hartford MFA program. It was great seeing this (and other) incredibly inspiring work as well as hearing where you started from and where you want to go. I also enjoyed your comment that "starvation is not a virtue" Glad to be among the non starving variety of artists. Keep up the great work!