Wednesday 22 July 2015

"Downbeat Downtown" by Dan Brown at NAC

The current show "Downbeat Downtown" at NAC consists of a series of photographs, mainly in black and white and quite straight forwardly representational, illustrating performances presented by the Twilight Jazz series and the newly founded TD Niagara Jazz Festival. Dan Brown, who took the photographs, says he “aims to capture moments of transcendence when the performers have lost themselves in the music.”

I am not a big jazz fan because I came to music through a mixture of folksong and opera and my tastes simply weren’t wide enough to take in jazz as well. I have heard it said that in the field of light reading people can take in fantasy and science fiction but not mysteries as well. Operating on the same principle, my capacity for musical enjoyment just can’t vast enough. “Had we but world enough and time”, as Andrew Marvell said to his coy mistress.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the jazz performers in these photographs are enjoying themselves, especially in two coloured photographs, one of singers singing their hearts out, and one of wind players taking over a vineyard. Among the black and white photographs I was particularly struck by one where his trumpet has completely covered the face of the player so that the player and trumpet form one entity. From what i have heard jazz this is actually what happens. There is so much improvisation, with players and singers abandoning themselves to melody, that it is as if the music were playing itself. This must be what Dan Brown means by “transcendence”.

I’m sorry I won’t be around for the reception and the screening of Jazz on a Summer’s Day, but I can’t stay awake between 6 p.m. and midnight. There’s a lot I miss that way but I can’t help it.

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