Art on the Deuces

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Everything jazz was happening on the Deuces this past Saturday. As the Carter G. Woodson African Museum featured works by Cora Marshall entitled “And Still I Rise” – a solo exhibition collage series that incorporates archival facsimiles of photographs compiled by W.E.B. Du Bois called the “American Negro.”— Lakewood High School’s Jazz Band provided the soundtrack to go along with her works.

The band was there raising money for a trip to New Orleans to compete in the national high school jazz competition for a second time in the last two years.

“It would be great to return to New Orleans,” said senior Chase Goggins, who plays the alto and tenor sax. He went with the jazz band to the “Big Easy” in his freshman year. “It’s the birth place of jazz and we jazzers would love to experience that all over again.”

Goggins added that the band was still about $2,000 short and “we’d really like to make up what’s left so we could go again.”

The four other band members that came out to play were Jonah Hollander on bass and vocals, Johnnie Liles on the trumpet, Malcolm Butler on drums and Michael Dodge on the baritone sax. The two absent members were Erik Hempel who plays the keyboard and David Deister on the trombone.

“The people coming through on the trolleys need to see you, hear you,” said museum Chair Terri Lipsey Scott. In less than a minute, Scott had sweet-talked the group into moving outside in front of the Woodson.  With everyone chipping in to grab a piece of equipment, band members were in place and ready to play in less than five minutes.

“Oh yes, that’s much better,” said Scott. As soon as she walked away, the first trolley pulled up in the parking lot directly across from the museum. Not only were people getting off the ArtWalk trolley to see the young jazz musicians play, but people were also streaming in from Gallerie 909.

By the end of the session, donations reached approximately $250, but the band still needed another $1,750 to lock down the trip to compete in New Orleans. Fast forward to early Tuesday morning, news surfaced that City Councilmember Steve Kornell donated the remaining balance of the money to ensure the Lakewood Spartan Jazz Band would be competing in the Crescent City Music Festival in New Orleans.

“They have jazz, choirs, ensembles, all kinds of music there,” said Michael Kernodle, Lakewood High School’s band director.

The band left the Bay area today at 5 a.m. and will return 9 p.m. Monday night. Their competition assessment will take place from 8-9 a.m. Saturday morning, and the awards ceremony will be that evening on the Steamboat Natchez.

Once the band returns, they will have a few days of rest during Spring Break and then the following week they set out for the Florida Band Masters state competition at Mariner High School in Cape Coral.

Kernodle expressed his and the band’s gratitude for the overall support the band received from the community to help them achieve an unforgettable milestone.

The Art of Jazz

Just across the street from the Woodson was graphic artist Arthur Dillard, who is the featured artist this month at Gallerie 909.  His exhibition entitled “The Art of Jazz” is a series of monochromatic jazz watercolor paintings of such jazz greats as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Rays Charles and Eubie Blake.

“I’ve been painting and drawing all my life,” stated Dillard, who added that he creates his art with the purpose of telling a story.

“Although a lot of my work is in jazz, the majority of my work is in heritage, telling stories of our past, telling stories of the kids and their dreams-things of that nature,” said Dillard who was named the featured artist for Black History Month 2016 by Florida Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott.

Dillard works out of his Bradenton studio, which is also his native home. One of his mixed media pieces featured an original Duke Ellington album dated 1948. Just above the vinyl album was sheet music to “Take The A Train” with a color painting of the Duke over the sheet music. Indeed, a story emerged about the mixed media graphic.

“I was in a show in Baltimore and a song playing was featuring Nancy Wilson, but it wasn’t Nancy’s song. From this I came up with the idea of creating original sheet music that a famous artist is known for, like Duke Ellington is known for the song ‘Take the A Train.’ Then, I would create a rendering of the artist known for the piece, but not necessarily the original artist as with the ‘A-Train.’ Everybody thinks Duke wrote ‘Take The A-Train,’ but he didn’t. Billy Strayhorn did.”

Dillard went on to tell the story that Strayhorn wrote the composition based on a talk with Ellington about how to come to see him. Ellington told Strayhorn that the only way to see him was to take the A-Train to Harlem. While Strayhorn made that epic journey on a New York City subway train to Harlem, he wrote the iconic song.

So now you know the story behind “Take The A-Train,” and there are many more tales that can be told by Dillard through his exhibition at Gallerie 909, which is located at 909 22nd St. S. Drop by and check it out for yourself. The show ends March 31.

Marshall’s exhibition will also be on display at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum through March 31.

To reach Allen Buchanan, email abuchanan@theweeklychallenger.com

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