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The movement and space in Afro-Cuban jazz has long fascinated me, especially the percussion. In my new Jazz Cubano Series I take those complex rhythms and melodies apart to reconstruct them visually.

I began work in 2012 with the music of Cuban percussionist Arturo Stable and Cuban pianist Elio Villafranca using their duo recording Dos Y Mas. Arturo was very generous with his time, trying to teach my very non-Afro-Cuban ears to hear the music’s ‘bones’ more clearly.

In order to find a visual translation I found I had to break the music down into its simplest components – literally, single percussion sounds. Those fueled a series of fifty brush studies. Next I transferred pairs of them one over another and painted into them – the Percussion Drawings. Only after many months was I comfortable beginning the larger brush studies and paintings.

Making our work a ‘conversation’, Arturo and Elio improvised from my brush studies in April 2013. I composed new pieces from music informally recorded in that session – layered, collaged paintings titled, Jazz Cubano: Arturo and Elio, Thinking Out Loud.

The second phase of Jazz Cubano is based on a piece from Stefon Harris’, David Sanchez’ and Christian Scott’s Ninety Miles Project. “Brown Belle Blues” was composed by vibraphonist Stefon Harris. The overlays of rhythms caught my imagination instantly when I heard them perform it live at a jazz festival in the summer of 2011.

ELLEN PRIEST Jazz Cubano #7: Stefon’s Brown Belle Blues © 2014, Papers, oil, flashe, pencil, MSA gel, 42” x 42”