Museums Bring Out the Artistry in Jazz

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SAMA's Art Parties have become popular among Baby Boomers and Millennials alike. Photo by Steven Starnes.

SAMA's Art Parties have become popular among Baby Boomers and Millennials alike. Photo by Steven Starnes.

Lying back in his swivel-back, then leaning in – groovin’ to some Dizzy Gillespie – JJ Lopez,  Jazz 91.7 KRTU general manager, broke down the relationship: “Collaboration with the museums provides a place to experience the music, the goal being to look at the musicians in terms of their role as artists,” he said. “It’s saying, ‘Hey look, these are our local guys, check them out.’”

The 2014 Museum & Concert series at KRTU has brought out the brighter tones and the deeper currents of soul from San Antonio’s top jazz musicians, all in a setting that encourages conversation and appreciation.

“These spaces allow the musicians to do what they do, with minimal compromise,” Lopez said. “Musicians can perform in their own merit, can play and be themselves.”

JJ Lopez, KRTU general manager

KRTU General Manager JJ Lopez

According to Lopez, monthly events at the San Antonio Museum of Art, the McNay Art Museum, and the Witte Museum provide the active listener the chance to engage and go beyond the simple aural aesthetic of the music.

“Active listeners want to know who the artist is, when the record was made, go deep into the music,” Lopez said. “They want something more from the experience.”

KRTU is a nonprofit radio station, and Lopez utilizes this in order to create unique programming and events for the community.

“We can move things around, look at jazz as an art form and consciously support the musicians,” Lopez said. “This is one of the best ways to collaborate with local nonprofits.”

Fluttering in the clouds of Sunday’s rainbow without the rain, Pierre brings his tenor tone with a little Satchmo whirl, and your sentimental taste buds are satiated. Delighting in the lightness of the twinkle of the piano, the trombone cries his reply and clarinet nestles softly into his shoulder. The cymbal showers sweetness all over it, and the alto decorates sprinkles of soulful surrender to the reality that yes, indeed – what a wonderful world.

At the Witte Museum, serendipity and tradition define the interaction between audience and performer. “People know, every Sunday there is jazz,” said Connie Swann, marketing manager at the Witte. “I definitely see regulars in the crowd, loyal followers.”

Yet at the same time, Swann notices a great number of people who just happen upon the music.

“I think sometimes there are audiences that come through and don’t know it’s happening, but can still stop and enjoy for a bit, then continue exploring the museum,” she said. “That’s what’s so unique about the experience. They just stumbled upon it.”

Jazz-lovers soak in the rays and sounds of the music they love along the San Antonio River. Courtesy photo.

Jazz lovers soak in the rays and sounds of the music they love along the San Antonio River at the Witte Museum. Courtesy photo.

According to Swann, the audiences love the music and the form it is presented in. “Jazz is a family friendly form of music, so many people attach to it,” she said. “We often do it outside by the San Antonio River. People bring lawn chairs and blankets and just relax and listen to the music.”

August featured the Mission City Rhythm Cats, a hot jazz take on New Orleans music that is bumpin’ and movin’ to a sensational foundation provided by a bass saxophone punch and high cornet flair. “This performance has been one of the best I’ve seen, the energy with people dancing, having a good time,” Swann said.

Smile weathered firmly in his cheeks from years of jazz savoring, KRTU member Bill Washington let out his impression while the world kept on swingin’ round him. “Every time I come it’s outstanding,” Washington said. “I want to come to the museums, I wanna go wherever the music is.”

A recent McNay Summer Jazz and Lunch event. Courtesy photo.

A recent McNay Summer Jazz and Lunch event. Courtesy photo.

Can’t stop can’t stop can’t stop the beat when you’re tappin’ tappin’ tappin’ the toes of your feet feet feet. Yeah yeah yeah you gotta stop because if not your gravity will pop and away you’ll fly into the sky // you don’t know why but you’re flying high oh so high the light in the sun has just begun to shine and it’s so fine, because baby you just can’t stop// La la la la la la lovely time for a dancing in the rain and so glad you came to say hello good day and fly away this way little butterfly of mine oh so fine, right along the lines of light and life there you’ll find me, sweet blissful rosy cheeked and untouched // Dig the groove the madness of the move you can’t stop you can’t stop stop stop stop the beat beat everybody’s dancing everybody’s prancing it feels like romancing the catapult of expression is launched and spinning round she’s spinning round and you’re bound to follow there is no tomorrow there is only today. Now is today, today is now.

KRTU approached the McNay Art Museum about five years ago, and since that time the partnership has blossomed into an engagement that inspires all the senses.

“It stands apart because it is indoors, you can have lunch while you enjoy the wonderful music,” said Daniela Oliver de Portillo, director of communications and marketing at the McNay.

“KRTU has heavily promoted jazz in San Antonio – it’s a music that is so easy to enjoy,” she said. “KRTU is such a great advocate, it makes it easy to choose them.”

Oliver de Portillo also appreciates the approachability of the collaboration. “I think it compliments the whole experience,” she said. “Whether you’re at the Witte, the San Antonio Museum of Art, or here. You don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy it.”

In regards to the jazz world, Oliver de Portillo prefers it with Brazilian or Latin flair. “Henry Brun is great, one of the few musicians who comes back every year,” she said, as Brun performed inside the concert halls. “He has years of experience, makes a nice connection with the public.”

Johnny P and the Wise Guys perform at a recent SAMA Art Party. Photo by Steven Starnes.

Johnny P and the Wise Guys perform at a recent SAMA Art Party. Photo by Steven Starnes.

Decorating the stage with French panache, Spanish sublimity, and el sabor latino. “Obsesion Latino” is featured. “We can’t end a set without a piece that is truly from Latin America.” In effortless waves, the guitar man offers flurries with a punch of sweetness and tenacity that is just the right recipe for Latin goodness. It stays on your tastebuds, and leaves you craving more. No need to fly away anywhere, it is the Sabbath and you are resting peacefully, laid back in your comfy relaxation inside the vaulted archways of the concert hall.  

Jean Phillipe Rominger, guitarist performing with Brun and Pete Ojeida that Sunday afternoon, grew up with gypsies in France and plays a little bit of everything. “The energy is nice because we are trying to touch an international repertoire,” Rominger said. “We’re combining Mediterranean, calypso, Latin. Putting them together is part of the idea.”

Jitterbug Vipers perform during a recent SAMA Art Party. Photo by Steven Starnes.

Jitterbug Vipers perform during a recent SAMA Art Party. Photo by Steven Starnes.

Digging into the artistry that Lopez reflected was a key exposition for this concert series, Rominger broke open his jazz soul a little more. “The music we play is a cultural music. It touches the need for people to explore,” he said. “What we are doing is trying to please the people, no pretension. We have practiced hard. It is challenging music but it doesn’t matter if you like the song or not. Just as long as you like the feeling.”

Having stumbled upon the concert, Rex and Yasmin delighted in the experience before them. “It’s a really great way to bring people into an art museum,” they said. “The space is activated in a different form, which is the essence of survival for many museums, bringing in new generations to interact with different spaces.”

According to the couple the beauty of the interaction is how it allows for different voices to come out. “When you come into an art museum you expect something and you get something different,” they said. “We are looking forward to more opportunities like this.”

JJ Lopez roots for the underdog, which is why he digs on noncommercial radio. “For me it’s the satisfaction that there are a lot people out there, hanging out supporting the artist,” Lopez said. “That’s the reward, that’s power to the people.”

According to Lopez 2015 hopes to add a fourth rooftop concert with Artpace, and perhaps break ground at other museum spaces.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what happens with these partnerships, as well as our Growing Jazz initiative, which is sharing music with middle school students,” Lopez said.

In the meantime, 2014 still has some great performers decorating the museum halls and more. All this weekend you can find concerts sponsored by KRTU including D.T. Buffkin at SAMA Friday evening, Los Lonely Boys and more at Gardens by Moonlight at the San Antonio Botanical Garden Saturday evening, and The West Side Horns Sunday afternoon at the Witte. Check out www.krtu.org for more information on all of these performances and how to get hip to this fine array of music.

*Featured/top image: SAMA’s Art Parties have become popular among Baby Boomers and Millennials alike. Photo by Steven Starnes.

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3 thoughts on “Museums Bring Out the Artistry in Jazz

  1. Come to the Art Party at San Antonio Museum of Art: Octoberfest Lone Star Brewery, Friday, October 10, 2014, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Free with Museum admission. Free for members. Bring your friends and enjoy music by D.T. Buffkin, drink Texas brews in the West Courtyard (cash bar) and learn about the history of the building (originally built as the Lone Star Brewery). In the event of inclement weather, Art Party is held in the Great Hall.

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