Flashe and pencil on paper
The movement and space in Afro-Cuban jazz has long fascinated Ellen Priest, especially the percussion. In her 2012-16 Jazz Cubano Series she took those complex rhythms and melodies apart to reconstruct them visually.
She began work in 2012 with the music of Cuban percussionist Arturo Stable and Cuban pianist Elio Villafranca using their duo recording Dos Y Mas.
"In order to find a visual translation I had to break the music down into its simplest components – literally, single percussion sounds. Those fueled a series of fifty brush studies." - says Ellen. Next she transferred pairs of them one over another and painted into them – the “Percussion Drawings.” Only after many months she was comfortable beginning the larger brush studies and layered paintings.
Making their work a painting/jazz conversation, Arturo and Elio improvised from Ellen's brush studies in April 2013. She composed new pieces from music informally recorded in that session – layered, collaged paintings titled, Jazz Cubano # 20-17: 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 Ellen's imagination instantly when she heard them perform it live at a jazz festival in the summer of 2011.