We've got Puck, Hamlet and the artist Basquiat, among others, on this week's Jazz on 3. Why? Because throughout the day on Monday, Radio 3 is exploring the role of portraits in music. And we've been given the task of giving the jazz perspective on this. Where to start? Well, we wondered whom a musician today would want to portray in music, and what it would sound like. What are the great historical portraits in jazz? Lots of questions, but we're squeezing as many answers – and some great new musical commissions – into this week's programme.
Pianist Alex Hawkins is first in the hotseat, to try and help us distinguish the portrait in music from the musical tribute; and, to discuss the great portraits of Shakespearean characters by Duke Ellington. We then fast forward to 2012 and the first of two sessions we've commissioned for the programme. Saxophonist Tom Challenger was given a blank canvas and chose to paint a musical picture of Ornette Coleman with his new group, Brass Mask. The unusual line-up of two reeds players, plus tuba and drums, lends real warmth and heft to the music, whether it's in the thoughtful opening or, later on, grasping the sense of fun that Challenger sees in Ornette and his music.
But what about the visual imagery of jazz – the great portraits by the likes of Francis Wolff and Herman Leonard? Jez discusses their legacy – good and bad - with Jazzwise editor Jon Newey and legendary photographer and writer Val Wilmer, who reveals a recent discovery from her own catalogue that she thinks is the best picture she's ever taken.
Our second session comes from Shabaka Hutchings – a portrait of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat that attempts to capture the splashes of colour and 'thickness' of his work. Hutchings’ group, which features guitarist Otto Fischer, bass player John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders, improvise freely around simple melodic strands, achieving both broad sweeps of sound and finer-tipped lines of colour.
And there are plenty of visual treats and titbits to be found on the Jazz on 3 website (link below), including exclusive access to that Val Wilmer print.
Join Jez for all this on Monday 7 May from 11pm, or listen online for seven days after broadcast.
The Jazz on 3 team
If you have comments about the show, or requests for music you’d like to hear, do get in touch at email@example.com