Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Jazz Festival poster

2018 Springfield Jazz Festival poster © City of Springfield, MO
I am thrilled beyond words to once again design the Springfield Jazz Festival poster. And get paid. As part of my day job! I'm the luckiest.

This small one-day festival has been a grass roots labor of love that the local city government and Missouri State University Division for Diversity and Inclusion started nine years ago as an active way to support diversity in our town.

We rely on the expertise and connections of MSU Jazz Studies Chair Randy Hamm to book the local, regional, university acts during the day and a partnership with the Historic Gillioz Theatre to book an amazing headliner. Last year Herb Alpert and wife Lani Hall put on an amazingly fun show.Next year will be the 10th annual festival so I expect big things!

This year, Chicago Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis is headlining the festival. Buy tickets here! I spent the last year researching and listening to all the CDs my library had. His 1960's trio stuff is my favorite. Check out this big hit from that era: The In Crowd

I love the live recording that almost sounds as if they are playing a small gathering in someone's living room. I've had a cool recording in rotation for several years of Ramsey Lewis' Do What You Wanna (Mr. Scruff's Soul Party Mix) from the Verve Remixed 2 album that keeps that same small (In) crowd feel. Puts me in a productive groove at work. Ramsey will be bringing his versatile Urban Knights band so I imagine he will be playing some of his more recent smooth jazz like Sweet Home Chicago all the way back through his Funk years (not my favorite) to his Trio days (my very favorite, see above).

When it comes to Jazz, I enjoy the raw instruments. I'm traditional that way. Jazz up through the 60s: Dixieland, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Django Reinhardt, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Art Blakey (Moanin'!), The Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Mose Allison, And anything that takes that spirit forward with new ideas i.e. Arturo Sandoval, Wynton Marsalis, Eddie Palmieri or Trombone Shorty. I think you can get some big sounds out of the classic acoustic blend. There's also something about live improvisation that has always amazed me as well.

In my poster, I wanted to show that variety and big sound, along with ghosts of all that history floating up out of Ramsey's piano. The percussion, the groove, the melody and harmony. All from one instrument. The piano has all the notes!

I have been experimenting with Cubism and Futurism the last few years, and in my studies I came across a related art movement called Synchromism. "Synchromism was an art movement founded in 1912 by American artists Stanton MacDonald-Wright (1890-1973) and Morgan Russell (1886-1953). Their abstract "synchromies," based on an approach to painting that analogized color to music, were among the first abstract paintings in American art." -Wikipedia

Crystal Bridges Art Museum has one of MacDonald- Wright's pieces that I found was my favorite of the museum. I thought Synchromism particularly fit with trying to visualize Jazz. I may not have gotten too deep into the theory and might have bent some of its rules, but I will continue to figure it out. Art is like Jazz: there is always more to explore.

I started sketching with some highlighters to play with transparency and mimic the bright yellow in Ramsey's promo photos (below). I decided to stick with those bright colors because they are unexpected and vibrant and I hadn't used this color scheme before. Keeping it fresh!

Initial highlighter sketch © Mark Montgomery 
 I then found reference photos from festivals past and took some of my favorite poses from the local musicians who have become staples of the festival. I've been doing these posters and attending for 8 of the 9 years so I've built up quite a visual library. We didn't have a poster for that first year, that I recall. It was REALLY grass roots.

I scanned in my sketches and some texture photos (from when I painted my living room). Then I drew it all out in Adobe Illustrator with tons of layers and transparency. Then I pasted it all in Photoshop with a stained butcher paper texture on top to soften and age it a bit. I think it turned out to be a real fine collectible piece of art, if I do say so myself.

Bass Player Sketch © Mark Montgomery

Drummer Sketch © Mark Montgomery
Sax Player Sketch © Mark Montgomery

Ramsey Lewis Sketch © Mark Montgomery

The REAL Ramsey Lewis. I hope he will sign my poster.
So there you have it. A fresh new Springfield Jazz Festival poster that hopefully gets you excited about trying out some Jazz on September 29 and keeps it alive in Springfield. It is a music form that has always brought people of different backgrounds together. Ethnic, economic, age, taste in music. Doesn't matter. All that Jazz.

Park Central Square Stage banner mockup 2018
Funding and support by Systematic Savings Bank, Missouri Ats Council, Springfield Regional Arts Council, City of Springfield, MSU, Downtown Springfield Association, Springfield Public Schools, Gillioz Theatre and Springfield Music.

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