Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hanging Jazz

As its name implies, the Jazz Gallery makes an explicit connection between jazz music and the visual arts. Probably best known as a performance space, it is also the City’s premiere exhibitor of jazz themed or inspired art. Last night, it was music serving art in the Gallery, as Jaleel Shaw, Boris Kozlov, and Johnathan Blake played for the opening of Takao Fujioka’s new exhibit “A Jazz Perspective.”

Fujioka, of “Jazgra Graphic Design for Jazz” has a distinctive style. While it does perhaps sometimes bring to mind David Stone Martin (both have a graphic design background), Fujioka’s work has a look all its own. His use of bold color in otherwise black and white portraits is striking. His musicians have comparatively small heads, but large, abstract bodies, which imply power and motion. Fujioka often shows a clever compositional sense, as with his portrait of Joe Zawinul, framed by a Z-shaped bank of keyboards. There are in fact, plenty of familiar jazz legends for patrons to identify in the exhibit, like Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins.

Fujioka’s bright colors look great displayed together on the Gallery’s walls. Jazz Gallery director/curator Dale Fitzgerald introduced the show with the revelation that Fujioka’s prints, encased in acrylic, are actually child-proof. Evidently, Fujioka was quite a good sport when Fitzgerald’s young son assisted the hanging process. Good for him. After all, the Jazz Gallery is a great venue for a jazz-inspired artist to show.

As for their part, Shaw, Kozlov, and Blake played a very impressive set, given that they were performing under unusually difficult circumstances for the Gallery. It was a party. People talk, what can you do? Fujioka’s work graces the Gallery walls until August 31st. There will be plenty of opportunity to see his work and hear a good show before then.