I count myself lucky to have experienced this past Christmas holiday in a very exciting and inspiring city. That would be New York City! I should mention too that I believe NY must also be one of the most “efficient” cities around because even as the snow began to fall at the beginning of what was to become a huge snow storm in NYC and surrounding areas, the city prepared to handle the snow and ice everywhere by attaching snowplows on the front of each one of their city garbage trucks. They were able to clear the streets in this way and then upon the return trip once the roads were passable again, they were able to pick up the trash. It might sound simplistic and perhaps insignificant however in a city the size of NY with the amount of garbage including paper and plastic that is placed out on the sidewalk each week, the efficiency and speed seemed a remarkable thing to witness.
New York was indeed remarkable and of course that wasn’t just to do with the snow removal technique. I come back to my home inspired by all the wonderful art and music and culture I was able to take in. Jazz music, classical music, Musical Theatre and art from classical to modern were some of the things NY had to offer. People, everywhere PEOPLE as the city’s population grew with the days leading up to the ball dropping in Time Square on New Year’s Eve. You could see and feel the excitement on the sidewalks throughout the day even on the more cold and bitter December days. People didn’t care about the cold; they were there to experience the city that makes New Year’s Eve famous. They were there to shop, to eat, to line up for hours waiting to see The Empire State Building, they were going to see the famous sights and there was a joyful spirit in the air somehow. Yes, NY was a buzz of joy and excitement and perhaps it always has that no matter what the season. We didn’t join the throng (that would be over a million people) on New Year’s Eve but it was exciting to be there in the city and get a sense of the sheer number of people that were there to experience the famous ball drop in Time’s Square.
One musical highlight and personal thrill to me was getting to meet vocalist Kate McGarry in person and hearing her perform twice and discovering that yes, she is as wonderful live as she is on all her recordings. I do hope we’ll be able to get her to Vancouver to perform this year. We were able to hear her in a brand new project in which she is collaborating with vibraphonist James Shipp, pianist Vitor Concalves and drummer Ritchie Barshay. They perform an eclectic array of songs including some of Kate’s originals. I love Kate’s original songs. They ring true and they leave an impact on you as a listener. In fact everything she sings leaves an impact it seems. She makes you feel the depth and possibility of the song’s story. Her voice is dynamic and full of expression and yet she is never gratuitous in any way as she sings the song’s story and sculpts an emotional contour. There is never a false note or an ending that disappears too soon and you hear every syllable and consonant and above all you are captivated. Whether she is burning through a bebop tune or caressing a lullaby’s lyric, Kate McGarry appears to sing with ease and precision and freedom and truth. Can you tell that I am a big fan? I am!
Vibraphonist James Shipp is a monster musician with a whacky sense of humor and ease on the stage. He created some truly fascinating arrangements that enabled the group to have a very specific sound suited to Kate’s approach to music making. I think they make a great team and they really began to develop a group sound. Certainly I hope they will be recording some of this fine music. In any event I think Kate McGarry is a jazz vocalist that people need to check out if they haven’t already done so.
There was much more music that we heard but perhaps I’ll go on to the art now. Getting a chance to view some art galleries opened up our minds and excited us about creative possibilities and that will remain a strong memory of this holiday as well. Huge installation art displays such as those on display at DIA were large in scope and at times also in philosophy it seems. Some art seemed to make more sense and more of an impact once a person could read a little bit more about the artist’s intention. Certain artist’s definitely impacted the way I came to see shape, form, contrast, mood and emotion when viewing or walking through and around some of the art installation. One artist, Richard Serra makes enormous and I mean ENORMOUS pieces with metal. You might walk around something resembling a sunken ship or walk through and around a type of path within 2 metal sloping walls where each person walking through will experience their own sensations with respect to space, or lack thereof or height and slope etc. I found this quite fascinating since most of the art I’ve ever viewed has been on a wall or has been a sculpture perhaps smaller in scale than the size of a sunken ship.
One huge hall at DIA displayed a long series of related works by Andy Warhol. Just walking through and viewing an entire room devoted to a series with one painting and all its numerous variations was really quite an experience. It wouldn’t be the same seeing only a few of them on display I imagine.
I loved every minute of being in one of the smaller galleries in NYC too. The Whitney Museum was where I was able to see much of Alexander Calder’s work. Getting a chance to walk through and witness the history of an artist’s work and see where he developed and changed styles and approaches was fascinating. To see that development and change in the works left behind and realize that certain experiences in the artist’s life will have him/her change directions and completely work towards a completely new direction is revealing. Perhaps it reminded me that there is always time to change and follow your muse so long as you are open to it, even if you have been doing something a certain way for a long time.
I suppose in some way being able to view some of the art I saw was a way to shake me out of my box and open my eyes to other possibilities in creativity or creative thinking at least. As a musician I believe this is very useful, this “shaking of the box” or the mindset one might find oneself in. You might not know immediately how this experience will affect your own art but certainly it must. We’ll see as the year 2014 unfolds…