Jazz art and music collide at the High Museum – Technique

Friday Jazz returns to the High Museum of Art, resuming on the third Friday of each month. From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., live performers perform in the Robinson Atrium as guests crowd around the floors. The event is free for museum members and also free with half-price $10 museum tickets, which means guests can tour the museum while listening to music. Parking at the High is available for $5 but fills up fairly quickly. The Promenade across the street offers additional spaces for $10.

Jazz was the tune on Third Fridays until mid-2014, when the program was replaced by Friday Night Music Remix, which featured a variety of musical genres.

A common criticism was that attendees had difficulty hearing the music despite the din of the large crowd. However, for the January 15 performance, the music could be heard from any nook or cranny of the Stent Family Wing. Obviously, the High has solved this problem in the meantime.

Although the music is audible now, the performers are not always visible. Several tables and chairs are set up on the lower level, but it’s first come, first served. There’s plenty of standing room in the atrium, but it can be a competition for a decent view. At the cost of volume and clarity, there are spaces on the upper floors with a line of sight to performance, though tall support pillars obstruct many of these areas.

Friday Jazz on January 15 featured Mike Walton, a saxophonist from Atlanta. A graduate of Valdosta State in Music Performance and Georgia State with a Masters in Jazz Studies, Walton has been playing sax since he was 10 years old. He’s played The High three times already, but this Friday was the first time he brought his own crew: Darren English on trumpet, Tyrone Jackson on piano, Shawboxx Shaw on bass and Chris Burroughs on drums. The band played a variety of tempos, from smooth, fast-paced jazz to rock and making sure the entire Stent Wing could hear above the crowd. Walton and English played individually, together or not at all, giving different feel and flow to the music with each exchange. True to the genre, the band added improvisation to their setlist.

“All the tracks that we did, we sort of pre-planned them,” Walton said during an intermission. “But as far as improvisation is concerned, it’s not necessarily planned. We have already practiced the melody; we already know where the harmony and things are going, so the rest plays on what the rest of the band is doing.

One would expect the crowd to follow the cross-sectional stereotypes of ‘museum’ and ‘jazz’, and there were indeed many older and wealthier guests. However, the college-aged crowd had a strong performance.

“A lot of times it’s an older crowd,” Walton said, “but it’s definitely good to see people my age. Either they’re jazz fans themselves or they’re exposed to it for the first time. I hope they like what I do, [not like] “Oh, this guy sucks. I hate it.’ I really appreciate that there’s a big crowd,…but I like that it’s a
much more mixed crowd than anything else.

The performers for February 19 have yet to be chosen at the time of writing, but March 18 presents “Brazilian Jazz Experience.”

With the departure of “Habsburg Splendor”, the High welcomed the avant-garde fashion design of Iris van Herpen in “Transforming Fashion”. van Herpen uses modern technologies, such as 3D printing and polymer chemistry, to create unique fashion statements.

At the end of February, exhibits feature works by Vik Muniz, a Brazilian photographer and artist who used electron microscopy in his art, and rare notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, an American artist.

“Transforming Fashion” departs before Jazz Night on May 20, but the latter departs at the end of May. This leaves several opportunities to fully live the musical and museum experience before the start of the spring semester itself.

“These are people who love music, and we need more of that,” Walton said. “We need people who love music because it’s amazing music, and it’s not dead – it’s far from dead. It’s still alive.

Ada J. Kenney