The National Jazz Museum in Harlem held a six-hour program yesterday in honor of Frank Newton and Pee Wee Russell, one unknown and the other under-acknowledged — two of my dearest jazz heroes. George Avakian, George Wein, Nat Hentoff (via telephone), Loren Schoenberg, Dan Morgenstern, Bill Crow, Morris Hodara, and Hank O’Neal spoke. Those who couldn’t make it uptown will be happy to learn that the audio portion of the presentations is, I am told, going to be accessible at the JMIH website — check my blogroll.
But while the presenters were presenting, my attention was caught by a painting on an easel at one end of the room. It clearly looked like one of Pee Wee’s: he took up painting late in life, following his own whimsical genius. (The winding lines and bright colors are, to me, visual representations of his playing — and perhaps of his patterns of thinking and perceiving.)
Hank O’Neal generously brought his prize Russell painting, and allowed me to photograph it and share it with my readers.
Pee Wee painted it in October 1966, called it BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and gave it as a gift to Eddie Condon. Here are some details of the painting. Drink in its energy and colors.
Another piece of the puzzle.
Take me as I am!
The Master’s signature.
(The Institute of Jazz Studies, which operates out of Rutgers University, has perhaps thirty-five Russell canvasses, much of his oeuvre. Worth a trip!)