Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, Opus 1683, acrylic on paper 

Listening to Arvo Part’s Fratres, or at least six versions of it. When I put this on repeat and go to sleep on it, I always have wonderful dreams.

Highly recommended if you are in a bitchy mood and totally disgusted with the human race. I was going to say “mankind” but thought I’d better make it gender neutral. Then, on second thought, I really do mean mankind, as in all the mess  that men make of things.. so not so gender neutral.  Let’s be honest about who really makes war, and is the source of the vast majority of the crime,  cruelty, injustice, and violence in this world.

One reason I believe Part chose a masculine word, Fratres, for this peace. We men really do need to learn how to be brothers in this world and put an end to all the stupidity and war.


Dewey Redman, Cooking in London

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, opus 1682, acrylic on paper

Listening to Dewey Redman.  Not Joshua, but his father, Dewey, the better jazz man of the two, playing a set recorded live in London.

Dewey, unfortunately is not as well known in America, even though he is considerably the better artist, as he was forced to spend almost his entire career in Europe and not allowed to play in the US. This was back in the day when jazz players would lose their cabaret license if they played in Europe and not be allowed back into the United States to play. Oh, you could get back in, to see your relatives or something. But not play or record.

Of course, white musicians and singers playing in symphonies and opera companies during this time were allowed to tour anywhere and without any impact [other than extremely positive effects on their status and career]  on their right to play in the United States.

Of course it was a level playing field. Sure.  All equal before the law. One nation under God with justice and equality for all. Amen. Sure, sure, tell us all about it.

Some never came back, but stayed in Europe even after things got straightened out a bit. Dewey is playing this set in 1996. Not that long ago, jazz-history-wise. Some, like Ornette Coleman, just happened to play some of their best stuff in Europe before wildly appreciative crowds and often better pay.

Dewey sounds  great by the way [Dewey Redoman in London, recorded October 1996, distributed  on Palmetto Jazz] and, without irony, is playing in his own  integrated quartet [Dewey Redman on tenor sax, Cameron Brown on bass, Rita Marcotulli on piano, Matt Wilson on drums]..


Erik ReeL, 1873
Erik ReeL, opus 1873


Today, 8 March, is  the birthdate of the great American composer, Alan Hovaness.  Hovaness is one of a small circle of composers who have [unknowingly] influenced my work. He, once said of his own work,

“Simplicity is difficult, not easy. Beauty is simple.  All unnecessary elements are removed — only essence remains.”

Almost a credo for my own mark-making.

Witold Lutoslawski

Erik ReeL painting, #1297
Erik ReeL, #1297, Ascent, acrylic on canvas, courtesy private collection

The German philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling [1775-1854] in his Philosophy of Art [1802-3], said that “architecture is like frozen music”  , a sentiment famously echoed by Goethe in 1836. Since Paul Klee, a similar equivalence has often been proposed for describing abstract painting.

For many, much architecture and most painting has probably felt to fall far short of the musical, though I suspect it also depends on what music one is listening to.  For me, my painting has been directly inspired by and in some cases explicitly linked to specific music. I’ve mentioned elsewhere the inspiration I’ve received from the jazz of  Miles Davis, Monk,  Ornette Coleman, and others.

One composer whose music feels very close to my present work is the mature work of the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski [1913-1994]; in particular, his aleatoric  ad libitum technique that dominates his Chain compositions,  piano concerto, and the third and fourth symphonies.  This is especially true of much of my work on paper, which constitute a virtually daily visual diary and reservoir of ideas for my larger works on canvas.

There is no explicit connection between us, but I can often hear his music in my own paintings.  There is an openness and freedom in his music that I seek to express in my improvisational work.  Both of us, I suspect, have our inner dread of the predictable and pre-determined.

Miles Beyond

Miles Davis
Miles Davis laying it down in his later years, photo wikipedia

28 September 2014- One of my favorite musicians to listen to is Miles Davis. He’s a fantastic musician to paint to.

In particular, I  am inspired by  his “spare and spellbinding lyricism with dramatic use of silence.”  I, too, seek a “spare and spellbinding lyricism with dramatic use of silence;” in my painting.

But there is nothing quite like Miles’ mastery of time.

Today, in the morning,  23 years ago, the great Miles Davis died  of a stroke.

Today, this morning, 28 Septermber, as I was listening to The Best of Miles Davis: The Blue Note Years, I happened to read the liner notes to the original LP, first released in 1992.  The notes end with the writer saying that it so happens that just as he finished writing those very same liner notes I was reading this morning,  the news came over his television that Mile Davis had just died of a stroke that morning, 28 September 1991.

Before reading those notes, I had no idea that Miles Davis had died on 28 September in the morning.

I tell you, when Miles plays,  things happen; worlds part and synchronicity just flows out into the universe.

As the writer of those liner notes concluded: “His restles genius will be sorely missed.”

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, # 1389, acrylic painting


1281 Direct Hit
Erik ReeL, Direct Hit, acrylic on linen

I was just listening to one of my favorite jazz recordings of all time.

It’s John Coltrane’s Alabama, recorded live at Birdland in 1963.

An amazing cut:  John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones at their best playing free, furious, and fabulously  for two and a half minutes.

It’s titled Alabama because it’s a response and in commemoration of the 15 September 1963 Birmingham 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing that killed four innocent girls.

So, today–15 September–I listen to this cut and remember that we still have a long way to go in this sad and misguided world.