'Jazz & Colors' Paints Vibrant Strokes With the Music of Coltrane, Davis, and More at the Met

Musicians fill the galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Musicians fill the galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo by Marc Millman, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For those who feel like upgrading that rich experience of visiting a museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is offering just that on April 24. For Jazz & Colors: The Full Spectrum Edition, musicians, playing both by themselves and as ensembles, will perform a set of jazz classics in galleries dispersed throughout the Met. The event will feature two sets, one at 6 p.m., and another at 7:30, with songs stemming from the color palette and including "Blue Skies" by Irving Berlin, "Mood Indigo" by Duke Ellington (both at 6), "Blue Train" by John Coltrane, and "Blue in Green" by Miles Davis and Bill Evans (at 7:30). The talent roster includes renowned saxophonist J.D. Allen and alt and guitar goddess Kaki King.

Jazz & Colors was conceived by Brooklyn Bowl's Peter Shapiro, who organized its first several renditions in Central Park, with ensembles dotted throughout its landscape, playing the same set but each with their own spin. As the Met starting looking for new, invigorating ways to bring in patrons and enliven the celebrated space, the idea to merge Jazz & Colors and the museum came to light, and Shapiro and the Met began collaborating. Jazz & Colors first popped up at the museum one cold, dark Friday night in January, and its success and the excitement for the concept guaranteed a sequel.

"To me," says Limor Tomer, general manager of concerts and lectures at the Met, "the experience is about being in a museum and following your ears instead of following your eyes." Both senses are very well attuned to what is happening around them, of course. She describes the experience of walking through the American Wing, say, and letting the sound of trumpets lure a visitor to a gallery where a jazz ensemble's playing right in front of a historic image of General Washington crossing the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War.

Gallery spaces were chosen for their acoustics, first and foremost, depending on which soloists, duets, trios, and ensembles would be playing. Ten acts are performing altogether, drums, cello, keyboard, flute, and more all over the museum. It'll probably be hard to catch them all. Tomer nails it: "You'd have to hustle."

King, for instance, will be playing at the American Wing's Vanderlyn Panorama, a round room with a panoramic, 360-degree painting of the gardens of Versailles. Songs were chosen for the hues their titles offered (others include "Bye Bye Blackbird" by Ray Henderson and "Honeysuckle Rose" by Fats Waller, both at 6, along with "Tangerine" by Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer and "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk" by Charles Mingus, both at 7:30).

Asked if he thinks this marriage of sight and sound enhances the experience of either, featured performer at this Friday's shows and all-around cornet player Kirk Knuffke says he definitely thinks so.

"If people are there to look at art and some music happens, they're in a different state of mind," he says. "And maybe they'll think about it differently." He'll be playing with his trio, which features Mark Helias on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums. Their space will be the Vélez Blanco Patio, a sixteenth-century Spanish courtyard brought over from a castle on the coast of Spain, featuring original Renaissance sculptures.

Regardless of the outcome of this combination (though they hope it makes both the art and music great), Knuffke and Tomer agree that jazz is exactly the right type of music for this particular scenario. It's just experimental — and colorful — enough.

See also: Ten Jazz Albums to Hear Before You Die Terry Waldo Brings Triumphant Ragtime to Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola Why Should You Go See Steve Winwood Belt Out 'Higher Love' in 2015?


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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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