Monday, January 30, 2012

A Painter's Melancholy Voice

Philip Carlton is an old soul trapped in a barely 20-something-year-old body. The St. Paul, Minnesota painter is a Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) art program graduate. He’s been painting long enough to have established his voice. Through his art, he speaks of being starkly human. His paintings define the word lugubrious: mournful; dark, dramatic, brooding. Carlton’s portraits, nudes, and “cartoon” figures are serious-looking, urban, and aggressive. Their beauty is in the sense of discomfort they create.

Here’s what he says in his Artist Statement: “The human form is inherently beautiful. When I paint, I meditate on that beauty through the two-part process of observation and presentation. I feel that observation, if perfected over years of careful practice, should lead an artist to experience their subject in a very plain and exacting fashion. When I observe something, I strive to leave my mind void of any misinterpretations or inventions. In its perfected state, my observation is precise and mechanical; it is rule bound.

“However, when I finally take brush to canvas and endeavor to present my vision of a chosen subject, my observation does not strictly govern my brushstrokes. In 2007 I began a project wherein I used multi-colored stage lighting to illuminate my models. This project set my work on a path that diverged from observed reality. The absolute freedom to manipulate existing color – or to explore new, arbitrary color schemes – is the foundation of my work. My subjects are often secondary to their presentation.

“Later in 2007, I stepped away from human models and painted, for the first time, action figures – toys – as though they were human. These figurines were a refreshingly new subject. They held many of the inherent beauties of the human form, as well as their own unique and unexplored qualities. In addition to being a deeply satisfying subject to paint, they appealed to a much broader demographic than my traditional figurative nudes did. I now paint both humans and humanoid forms: figures and figurines.

“When I create a painting, I strive for perfection. However, when a mirror-like rendition of reality is no longer the goal, perfection becomes a malleable concept. I like to think of each painting I create as a study in color and light that results in an image that is more sublime than the last. It is a process of trial and error: every painting is a thesis in beauty that will inevitably be disproved by the painting that follows it.”

Visit Philip Carlton’s website or see his latest show, “Blatant Abuse of Artistic License," at Echo Arts, 275 East 4th Street, Suite B200, Saint Paul, MN 55101. The gallery is open Friday and Saturday evenings.

Doorman's Diary 1.28-29.12

The bass player growls. When he plays his stand-up, he scats with the notes. Very jazzy. Quintessential. His playing perfectly matched the 82-year-old jazz guy sitting at the bar wearing a black beret and sipping Cabernet. With his handsome, lined face, the old jazz dude could be the poster-child for the club. Jazz does soften hard edges. As The Doorman, I see the difference between the faces of people when they walk in and when they leave. The cynic would say: "Yep, that's what alcohol does." But, the jazz club clientele is not of the drink 'till you sink ilk. The music is the magic. Harsh street faces soften and worry lines are Botoxed away with a little Sonny, Miles, and Monk. Case in point: A pleasant-looking woman had entered the club and joined two other middle-aged friends. She joined her friends late and left them early - sure sign of an active, involved person... my kind, one of my peeps. As she left, I said: "Leaving us early..." Her softened jazz face changed back to the intensity of her life as she exited while saying, "Yes, I've got commitments." I thought, yes... commitments.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Doorman’s Diary: 1.27-28.12

We had a jazz quartet tonight that I had been looking forward to hearing. Jazz guitar, drums, Hammond organ, and tenor sax. No bass. I’m accustomed to seeing a big-honking stand-up on the stage and holding the beat with its heavy-raindrop plumping sound. But it wasn’t missed. The group sounded great. I complimented the guitarist leader during a break, telling him that he’s the “epitome of cool.” He was taken aback a bit and said, “I’ve been called a lot of things, but ‘cool’ has never been among them. In fact, when I was younger, I was the kid getting the wedgie.” I said, “Your y-front is safe here, because you’re definitely cool.” The crowd tonight was modest sized. Among them was a lone wolf who sniffed out the one lone woman in the club. He was a friendly, mostly earnest, chatty guy who seemed to really like the club and the music. By the end of the night, he was very close to being irritating. There was another couple—not the wolf and wolfette I’ve been describing—that were seated in one of the three known Vortexes of Love in the club. The Vortexes of Love are cosmic anomalies where couples who are seated in them are pheromonal-driven to engage in PDA (public display of affection). There are three locations in the club where the magic occurs. This couple was seated in the weakest of the three locations, which is weaker by virtue of the fact that it encompasses a greater span than the other two locations, which are clearly two-seat concentrated vortexes. At some point, with greater observation, it may become clear if we have two overlapping vortexes or maybe it’s a zone. I’ll keep you posted. But for this night, when an out-of-town sit-in tenor was engaged in a Kansas City-style “dual to death” blow off with the quartet’s tenor, their frenetic saxophone interchange became the sound track for the Vortex couple’s passionate eating-face PDA.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Doorman’s Diary: 1.21-22.12

The full-house crowd tonight brought to mind a famous, super-short Ezra Pound poem:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

The flow of people into the jazz club was apparitional. It was a blur of faces that all melted together into soft-edge petals. They all seem pleasant and good looking. As The Doorman, I am learning how to read people. A woman tonight reaffirmed something I’ve discovered: people receive so little positive feedback. We tromp around in the world doing our best, but rarely receive an attaboy or attagirl. As The Doorman, I try to find the balance or pivot point between a compliment and creepy. It’s difficult since there’s only so much room within the context of my relation to customers entering the jazz club. We had a woman clearly in the 30’s to 40’s age bracket. When she saw me there ready to screen and collect covers, she said: “Oh! You’re not checking IDs – I think if you asked to see mine, I’d probably kiss you!” My response: “I’m not fishing for a kiss, but you do look awfully young, so yes…I need to see your ID.” She knew that I knew differently, but in these 15 seconds I reaffirmed what she hopes… that she looks younger than she really is. As I gave her driver’s license back, I sealed the deal by saying: “Nice fake ID—be careful, not everyone will let you slide by like I did.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Doorman’s Diary: 1.20-21.12

Cold and snow is predictable, yet when it happens there are many in our locale that adopt an Armageddon attitude. I guess they hunker down in their homes waiting for Christ to show up on a snowmobile hell bent (ooops, heaven bent?) to take on Satan for the final showdown. The club was slow. Among the hardy 15 or so who were enjoying the jazz quartet was a couple who had come to the club last weekend—a dark-haired guy and an attractive blonde. The young woman, while gently brushing her sunshine-color hair aside, said she thinks of jazz when the weather is cold. “Nothing better than being in a jazz club on a cold, snowy night,” she said. I said, I understand… it’s like listening to an original instruments, all string ensemble rendition of the Brandenburg Concertos on a rainy day. Her cute face puzzled and she responded, “I guess so.” I left her to ponder and returned to my post at the door. The mournful sound of the alto clearly defined the quartet’s version of Coltrane’s Equinox as I welcomed a couple of shivering, snow-wet guests. The young man in the pair is a singer, who was given an opportunity to sing a couple of songs with the band. He wore a retro-vintage white belt and matching white shoes, which was amusing. His voice, phrasing, and presentation needs polishing, but it was generous of the quartet to give him a shot. He’ll get there… in due time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Doorman’s Diary: 1.14-15.12

On the bill tonight was an established local jazz guitar legend. His trio included a stand-up bass and drums. Celebrating his 79th birthday, the guitarist laid down soulful melodies with his complex fingering on his hollow-body electric. Perhaps slower than in his youth, he still sounded damn good. The club filled comfortably and I, as The Doorman, enjoyed welcoming jazz appreciators in from the cold. Among the throng were a few familiar faces—two couples who show up with enough frequency to be remembered and “journal man,” a gentleman who sits at the bar and makes an entry into his journal while enjoying a couple of drinks and listening to the music. It’s been awhile since he was last here. There was also a single young woman who entered and tentatively sat at the end of the bar. Once comfortable, she appeared to be truly enjoying the music. It felt nice to know that our place is welcoming and comfortable for a lone person—female or male—to enjoy the live music and a few drinks without complication. As chance happens, a threesome entered the club and sat next to her. It was fun to see serendipity unfold before my eyes as the four of them seemed to become fast friends. The threesome was a couple and a third wheel guy, all about the same age as the lone lady. And yes the third wheel and the lone woman appeared to be getting along. If anything, the four of them had a good night listening to jazz and talking with each other. But one never knows how the power of jazz plays out, especially in the formation of new relationships.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Doorman’s Diary: 1.13-14.12

As I entered the club tonight, I heard the Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, Stephen Stills 1968 recording, Super Session, playing on the sound system. Tonight would be a blues night. As the blues band was setting things up, I talked with the guitarist who made the universal pointing-to-the-sky sign to indicate the music playing. “I love this album and listened to it all through college until a roommate traded it for a pizza… the f**ker.” I commiserated, since Super Session is one of my desert island picks (you’re stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life and can have only five albums).  He went on to say, “I’m Jewish, so I really like Bloomfield since there aren’t many Jewish blues guitarists.” In addition to the Jewish guitar player (who sounded every bit as good as his hero, Mike Bloomfield), there was the band leader on drums, a Bigfoot-size bass player with a huge-ass (note: official technical term) 5-string electric bass, a wild and dramatically-energetic synthesizer keyboarder, and a piano keyboard player wearing a white shirt with a pattern of multi-color dollar signs screen-printed on it. We had a nice crowd that filled the club and included an ADD-hyper woman who when she wasn’t eating her boyfriend’s face would jump up and dance. I tried not to look at her because if my head was oriented anywhere in her direction, she would lock eyes and dance in front of me. I don’t know if she wanted me to dance with her or what – I am The Doorman, I do not dance. The madness peaked when the band did its blues version of the Stones’ Miss You and she with her anorexic skinny body and blues-beaten face did her best interpretation of Mick Jagger. With eyes squinted I could claim to say Mick was in our club.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

day’s end
the darkness
lets itself in
                        - JW, 1-7-12

The Doorman’s Diary: 1.6-7.12

As we enter a new year, The Doorman has a renewed resolve to ensure the jazz club patrons are welcomed into the sacred space of jazz. There is magic in the performance and the music that more need to experience. Yet, I feel a responsibility as The Doorman to usher in the true believers and bar the obstinate. In the past, I believed in conversions… thinking if the reluctant would enter and experience a few songs that they would receive the holy beam of jazz belief. No more. The conversion rate is so small compared to the disruption of the mellow aura created in the club. My approach will be: “It’s a five dollar cover and if that’s not agreeable to you, I need to ask you to please step outside, since there are strict fire code regulations about keeping the entranceway clear.”  Fortunately tonight, with the large crowd we had, there were no issues requiring my new vigor in doormanship. The crowd was terrific and brought a smile to my stoic phiz as I appreciated the power of jazz as an ethnic melting pot. In our nearly full club, we had a delightful mix of black, white, brown, and yellow…all seated within arm’s reach of each other. Our act tonight is a powerful female jazz singer accompanied by a legendary piano player. There were only a few songs they performed that begged for a bass or percussion to fill in apparent holes. On one memorable song, the singer’s brother jumped on stage and played his tenor. The reaction of the crowd showed that the saxman could have played more than one song with them. The club is clearly acoustically suited for horns. This is a great start to a new year.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Doorman’s Diary: 1.5.12

The jazz club was closed during the holidays. Being ever diligent, The Doorman used the time off to reflect on his craft and create a new set of resolutions for the year having accomplished the majority of the goals I had set for the past year. My 2011 resolutions, which were handwritten with a gold-nib Lamy fountain pen on a sheet of cotton-fiber ivory paper secured from Crane & Co., are gold-framed and hang prominently in my private quarters. Yes, The Doorman is  "...among millions – from the eminent to the ordinary, from heads of state to heads of households, from European monarchs to Hollywood royalty - who have relied on the fine 100 percent cotton stationery made by Crane & Co. to help shape their place in history." Thus, 2011 professional proclamations have been replaced with slightly more rigorous 2012 resolutions—The Doorman is committed to improvement. To edify myself on my craft, I used my free time wisely. I read “Confessions from the Velvet Ropes: The glamorous and grueling life of Thomas Onorato, New York’s top club doorman,” which was a gracious gift from an admirer. Although Mr. Onorato caters to the jazzed-up Paris and Nicky Hilton “beautiful people,” I am more fortunate to be serving the truly beautiful jazz-lovers who visit the club where I am simply known as The Doorman. I am ready for 2012.