Guest blogger Arlington Jones is a jazz pianist, composer and educator. He is also the Artistic Director for Sammons Jazz at the Sammons Center for the Arts. And he’s part of a team coordinating D’JAM Jazz Appreciation Month in April. For more D’JAM events, check here.
Since its inception, jazz has made an influential mark on so many people in different ways. I was reminded of this as I attended some of the D’JAM (Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month) events this past week.
I went to see Walter Winn’s “Art of Music” exhibit at the Janette Kennedy Art Gallery in Dallas. Walter Winn was a jazz drummer in the Dallas area who worked with Texas greats like Red Garland and Marchel Ivery. In addition, Mr. Winn was also an artist. I never had the opportunity to meet him in person, but this weekend I was able to enjoy a part of his legacy thanks to his paintings. Winn depicted fellow Texas musicians such as Roger Boykin and Leroy Cooper as well as other jazz musicians including Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, and Dizzy Gillespie. His realistic painting of the late sax player David “Fathead” Newman brought back all the great memories I have of working with “Fathead”.
As I laid eyes on his works, it came to mind that you never know how music will affect people. Obviously, Winn had a deep love for jazz, which led him to creatively express his adoration through painting these fascinating works of art. He is a part of the list of jazz musicians like Miles Davis and Tony Bennett who are known for their paintings as well. I learned from one of the D’JAM committee members that in the late ’70s, Winn co-created the Martin Luther King Jr. Keep The Dream Alive sculpture. This work of art boldly sits in front of the Martin Luther King Community Center in Dallas. Although I’ve lived in the Dallas area most of my life and passed this sculpture hundreds of times, I never knew this musician’s remarkable story. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have experienced Winn’s impressive contribution to jazz through visual art.
I also attended the Sammons Jazz concert featuring The New Collection and Jisun Choi Quartet on April 4. The New Collection led by Paris Rutherford (creator and former director of the University of North Texas Jazz Singers) did not use any other instruments except the voice. We often associate jazz with instruments you play, but it was good to hear the artistry of this group as they vocally executed rich jazz harmonies. They presented a diverse repertoire and improvised by scatting solos and sometimes created rhythms by beatboxing. In the same fashion of a jazz band, the group came together to create one unified sound.
Then Korean jazz pianist and Brookhaven College music professor Jisun Choi took the stage with her quartet. She played all original compositions and even surprised the audience with a guest performer who played a Korean instrument called the Haegum. This was a first for the Sammons Jazz audience. They sat with anticipation of what would come next as the group adeptly performed their set. I appreciated the way Choi artfully revealed her culture through jazz.
To top it off, I had a conversation with a man about jazz that I will never forget. As he shared with me his passion for jazz, he stated, “Jazz saved my life.” To me, this statement shows us why efforts like D’JAM are so important. There is no doubt that jazz makes lasting impressions, which are reflected in both the expressions of the musician and gratitude of the listeners. Indeed, jazz still moves people and can have a positive impact on their lives.