The freezing winter night in January 2016 when I drew Jacob Collier and Justin Kauflin was also the night Quincy Jones took some time to leaf through the Soundpapered sketch book I brought with me that evening. “Is that my friend, Herbie?” he asked of one drawing, followed by “It can’t be, he’d never wear sneakers like that”. The sneakers were those of Jon Batiste.
A few months earlier, it was an absolute highlight of the Soundpapered late summer to draw not only Patrice Quinn (see vocals), but Kamasi Washington and his father, Rickey (on flute) and Terrace Martin (on alto sax..right?) at KW’s epic/The Epic gig at the Blue Note in August, one of his first in NYC. Thundercat joined on bass, fresh from Afropunk the weekend before, but I could only capture these four in one set. If the drawing of Kamasi looks like it’s from below that’s because I was, by request, seated at the band’s feet. It was like sitting in front of a jet engine to take all that in from the front of the stage in this compact venue. So good in fact, that I went back to their LPR gig in October just to listen. The Epic by name, and by nature, no question.
In December 2015, I caught Theo Croker, at BRIC in Brooklyn while he was being filmed for BRIC TV. Recent others here are an ensemble of ensembles from April 2015, and not strictly all brass: Al Strong’s trio, Sidewalk Chalk and Snarky Puppy are far more than a heap of horns, and all performed at AoC 2015 alongside Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Just a few of HBE are shown here, there’s at least another five where these guys came from, but I got to drawing towards the end of their set so it was this fraction of them or bust.
Chad Lefkowitz Brown played effortlessly with Clarence Penn in April 2014 at Lincoln Center and then here, at Cornelia Street cafe. This loose sketch of Marcus Strickland was from a set he played with Mark de Clive Lowe in North Carolina at AoC 2014, and like the one of Mark, it was an early doodle; I’d not yet figured out which end of the pen to use or how to draw in the dark yet.
Drawing Terence Blanchard in profile was a privilege of standing right in the front of the Central Park stage for the Summerstage show, headlined by Gregory Porter. For some reason the white ink suits the horn players – like the sketches of Derrick Hodge’s bass-playing hands, I focused on Keyon Harrold’s fast fingers, from his set at Otis Brown’s Jazz at Lincoln Center show in February 2015. The drawing of Keyon here is a much more recent one, from the Jazz Standard, a year later, since he kept challenging me to draw him over and over.
The drawing of another great trumpeter, Igmar Thomas, was slow, jostled by a crew of Euro filmmakers in a very tight spot on the first night of 2015 Winter Jazz Fest. Worth the elbowing and gently barking at them in French to keep the lines precise. There’s very little margin for screwing up on black paper, like live performance, though the mistakes endure. Everyone is thankful the Revive Stage has expanded to the Bowery Ballroom for 2017.
There are also a couple of serious heavyweights here: Blue Note legend, Lou Donaldson (Blue Note, Summer 2014), and Pharaoh Sanders (at Jazz at Lincoln Center in January 2015). Again, I was right up front, so I got a good look at Donaldson’s face. He, meantime, kept his eyes shut almost the entire set, with fierce focus. That’s a thing you can do playing, but not drawing. Sanders did the same thing, almost drifting off in the bridge, then snapping back to twice-as-large-as-life in his gripping solos. Each in their 80s, they make you reconsider your plans for retirement. Some pure gold here.
Then there’s Ravi Coltrane, also back at the Blue Note in January 2015, playing with Terence again. The drawing took the whole set and a double page spread. Takuya Kuroda played a staggering set at 2014’s Love Supreme, and also at Jose James’ opening night in that summer. Drawing Roy Hargrove at Ronnie Scott’s nearly destroyed my sketchbook. It survived the waiter tipping someone else’s coffee martini over it. That’s why these aren’t watercolors, I guess.