Jazz pianist Joe Augustine is a professional of the highest order. His inventive musical style has been described by many as accessible and engaging...lyrical, even playful. A Steinway artist since 1995, Augustine has approached every musical setting with ease and excitement, rewarding the listener every time.
His imaginative skill fits the premise of this project like a glove - visual art as inspiration for sonic art. Augustine draws on his 30+ years' experience as pianist, composer and arranger to find just the right blend of melody, harmony and rhythm to render this musical masterpiece.
His esteemed colleagues, Steve Novosel on acoustic bass, Wilbur Krebs on electric bass and Jim "J.R." Richley on drums and congas add richness and color to the project...a stunning musical portrait - JAZZSCAPES.
These songs and Joe Augustine's arrangements were inspired by paintings from The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH.
1. Gypsy in My Soul
"Girl in the Yellow Scarf" Artist: Charles Hawthorne
Hawthorne clothed his model in a costume that exudes the exotic and the passionate for this haunting portrait. Similarly, Augustine's interpretation of this upbeat tune is full of life and the love of freedom we all desire.
2. Autumn in New York
"Manhattan's Misty Sunset" Artist: Childe Hassam
Inspired by the familiar autumn haze that surrounds the Manhattan skyline, impressionist Hassam created this remarkable work symbolizing the spiritual residence of all who claim NYC as their home. This arrangement blends the familiar melody with layers of buoyant chords and rhythmic imagination accented by bass and drums.
"Birds" Artist: Alice Ruggles Sohier
An American impressionist painter, Sohier's pensive study captures a familiar feeling of helplessness. Joe Augustine's poignant original, with both sweet and sad tones, reflects a conflict of emotions that personifies a feeling of regret.
"Good Morning" Artist: Frederick Carl Frieseke
The contemporary treatment of this standard calls to mind the youthful exuberance seen in this finely drawn Victorian impressionist master work. Tangerine tones amplify the lovely figure portrayed with anticipation, happiness and promise. The brilliant stylistic amalgam of the trio sets the stage for a colorful overlay of a Fender Rhodes piano solo.
5. Over the Rainbow
"The Oregon Trail" Artist: Albert Bierstadt
Long associated with images of Oz, this song evokes the notion of the search for a better day in a new land. The American West was the promised land for many including this master painter who documented the struggle of travel along the Oregon Trail in his work. The colorful scene blends perfectly with this song of hope and optimism. This imaginative take epitomizes the true art of the trio.
6. Summertime/I Loves You Porgy
"Country Cabin, Summer" Artist: Herman Herzog
This nostalgic, 19th century genre scene is a colorful reminder of the spirit of "Porgy and Bess," the Gershwin brothers' musical masterpiece, depicting an image of simpler times and the slow, easy pace of summer. Harmonic texture and rhythmic art colorfully enhance Joe Augustine's style in this beautiful medley.
7. That Old Black Magic
"Night Garden Wall" Artist: Louise Nevelson
To this beloved American sculptor, black was more than a signature. It was the magic which was her art. The artist was inspired by love in its broadest meaning, and this song's "black magic" casts love's hypnotic spell. The somba rhythm provided by Krebs and Richley sets the stage for this inspired Augustine arrangement - a take that is truly magic.
8. Rhapsody in Blue
"Paper Mill" Artist: Joseph Raphael
Gershwin's beloved symphonic masterpiece evokes sensations of the natural world through brilliant harmonies and vital interplay of musical elements. This vibrant, rhapsodic water painting provides inspiration for Augustine's unique interpretation. Sparkling and playful, with elements of "blues" in his style, the pianist brings new excitement to this familiar melody.
9. Isn't It Romantic?
"The Trysting Tree" Artist: Asher B. Durand
Setting the scene with a moonlit background, Durand used the beautiful and serene American wilderness to express a romanticism that would ultimately inspire generations of artists, poets and now musicians. The pianist playfully creates an environment of romance and excitement showcasing the trio's excellent sense of style.
10. Deep Purple
"Romulus and Remus" Artist: Norman Bluhm
Abstract expressionist painter Bluhm utilizes color to express the deepest of emotion with violet the tone of greatest preference. Augustine's interpretation relates beautifully to Bluhm's work that personifies the passion and spontaneity of American painting at mid century. The creative harmonization and rhythmic treatment of this great American classic are enhanced with support from bass and drums.
11. My Friend
"Stairway to the Sea" Artist: Will Barnet
The wistful figure in this surreal scene appears as a contemplative, if not forlorn, person pondering the sea for comfort and solace. She could well be remembering a friend as is Joe Augustine in this sweetly sad original written in memory of a cherished friend.
12. Bye Bye Blackbird
"American Crow" Artist: John J. Audubon
Scientist and artist, Audubon contributed to both art and our understanding of native American birds. This painting, typical of his skill, contrasts strong black forms with the delicacy of their setting. This fun and playful version of the well-known standard features bass and drum solos complimenting the piano sequences.
13. The Colors of My Life
"Phenomenon Tantric Following" Artist: Paul Jenkins
Using an unorthodox pouring technique, modern master Jenkins emphasizes brilliant and saturated color in this dazzling and spontaneous composition. This beautiful ballad from the musical "Barnum" ties color to human emotion. Augustine's subtle solo piano interpretation provides an introspective conclusion to the varied colors of his JAZZSCAPES.
The above 13 descriptive passages were written by Dr. Louis Zona, Director of The Butler Institute of American Art.