Matt’s Art Journal – January 4, 2021

The daily struggle, especially when you are a freelance digital content creator, is to find the proper balance, in order to keep your sanity. It’s particularly hard to do that as people are beginning to get out of their holiday mode and starting to send more and more emails. Thankfully, it didn’t get in the way of my daily art explorations today.

The film I watched is the latest from Charlie Kaufman, titled I’m Thinking of Ending Things. I’ve found anything Kaufman has worked on, first as a screenwriter and later as a director, fascinating and original. Which is another reason why I found this surrealist tale on relationships as an endless cycle frustrating. Its core message was too simple and it lacked the finesse a filmmaker like Alain Resnais would have had dealing with the same topic.

I’m not someone who openly criticizes stylistic excesses. After all, German Expressionism is one of the most exciting movements in film history. However, I do think that sometimes, it just doesn’t work. I find Baz Luhrmann, for instance, is prone to such unnecessary excesses. While I appreciated Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby was a film where it felt a lot of the excesses he did simply for the sake of doing them, rather than even for the pleasure of doing them.

I think there’s always a risk of artists “painting themselves in a corner.” It happens all the time in film and maybe that’s what’s also happening with Kaufman too. Another filmmaker who always runs that risk is Quentin Tarantino. Somehow, what saves him, is his absolute belief in any artistic choice he makes. On the other hand, a filmmaker who has never done that is Martin Scorsese. His filmography is quite varied and often surprising. The fact that people tend to remember Scorsese for his mob movies more than any other has more to do with mainstream oversimplification than pure cinephile pursuit.

Brian Zimmerman, who is the Executive Editor of JAZZIZ, and I have this regular feature on JAZZIZ where we highlight five jazz albums every week, according to a different theme. This has served me well as a starting point for making more insightful musical explorations. The next feature will highlight top rising stars in jazz. I decided to approach this theme without looking at what’s hot in the jazz press at the moment and, instead, let my own ears guide me.

So, I’ve been listening to Israeli pianist Tom Oren’s 2020 debut record, Dorly’s Song, which is a standard modern jazz piano trio. The setting provides a great setting for showcasing a type of modern jazz with influences from the Israeli music tradition. His is also heartfelt playing and may have something to do with the fact that the material pays tribute to his mother, who is an acclaimed musician of his native country in her own right.

I also checked out a big band album by Muriel Bildsten, which is also from last year and titled Backbone from 2020. I believe it’s mostly made up of covers but what impresses me is the elegance of this ensemble, which really evokes that blend of fun and sophistication that the Duke Ellington Orchestra was known and loved for. There’s something to be said, also, about her trombone playing. When played well, this instrument is really one of a kind and has a range of emotions that other instruments do not.

Leave a Reply