The Matisse Jazz Project with Christopher Bakriges and Gwen Laster
The Matisse Jazz Project is inspired by the iconic cut paper collages of Henri Matisse published in 1947 as Jazz. The twenty pieces composed by pianist Christopher Bakriges and performed with violinist Gwen Laster correspond to each of the famed artist’s cutouts and his writings in a multi-media evening exploring what Matisse’s called “teaching the eye to hear.” During the performance the audience is invited to create their own paper collages inspired by his music and projected Matisse images, with guidance from the Helen Day Art Center. Art materials are provided.
About Henri Matisse
In 1941 the artist Henri Matisse found himself ill, bedridden, and unable to pick up a paint brush. He found, however, that he could maneuver scissors through prepared sheets of brightly colored paper. He referred to this technique as “painting with scissors.” Among his first adventures with paper cutouts was a book called Jazz, which Matisse prepared in 1942 and published in 1947. The book containing twenty color plates as well as his written thoughts was initially only printed in a hundred copies. Matisse viewed jazz as a “chromatic and rhythmic improvisation.” The title Jazz evoked for Matisse the idea of a structure of rhythm and repetition broken by the unexpected action of improvisations. He wrote, “There are wonderful things in real jazz, the talent for improvisation, the liveliness, the being at one with the audience.”
About Christopher Bakriges
Bakriges is of Greek American decent, born in Detroit. The rich cultural firmament of Motown cultivated his taste for music as an expression of emotion, communication, and social change. Bakriges graduated with degrees in world music from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and in ethnomusicology from York University in Toronto, Canada. His teachers have included Oscar Peterson, Harold Danko, Nadi Qamar, Jimmy Giuffre, Dr. Billy Taylor, Tanjore Vishwanathan, Pandit Sushil Mukherjee, Frederick Simmons, and Alvin Lucier. His repertoire has forged a unique path that embodies the essence of jazz exploration, global influences and pure improvisation.
Bakriges is artist in residence at two Massachusetts schools, MassArt in Boston and Elms College in Chicopee. His most recent album, Clear and Present, is a quartet with Jay Hoggard, Avery Sharpe, and Billy Arnold. He has performed with wide array of international artists, including Bobby McFerrin, David Darling, Anthony Braxton, Raphe Malik, Motown’s Norris Kasuku Mafia Patterson, Korean ajeng master Hyun Sik Shin, Indian percussionist Sivamani, and PakistanI qawwali legends, the Sabri Brothers. He made his international debut at India’s Jazz Yatra Festival and has since performed in Pakistan, Turkey, France, England, the Czech Republic, and throughout Canada and North America.
About Gwen Laster
Laster is a native Detroiter whose creative influences come from the Motor City’s exciting urban and classical music culture. Laster studied with Joe Striplin, the first African American in the Detroit Symphony, and after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, moved to New York. She has performed with Anthony Braxton, Nona Hendryx, Aretha Franklin, Hatian vocalist Emeline Michel, Alicia Keys, Rhianna, Natalie Cole, and with Shakira at President Obama’s Neighborhood Ball Inauguration. She has won major performance, composition and teaching grants from the NEA, ASCAP, Lila Wallace, Arts Mid-Hudson, and a first place award from Cognac Hennessey Jazz. She is founder of the Creative Strings Improvisers Orchestra, Sphinx Symphony, Go: Organic Orchestra and leads the New MUSE4tet. Gwen is featured in Chamber Music America for her Black Lives Matter Suite.