Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jazz and Ex Libris -- An Introduction I

Jazz and Exlibris - An Introduction


Thomas I. Roman

This summer of 2002 there is a unique exhibition taking place in the town of Sori in Italy. It is a first of its kind, and its subject is Jazz and Exlibris. This is a topic that many may already be familiar with, but perhaps not thought much about in terms of relationship between the two artforms.

There are certain parallels and once perceived, can enhance the pleasure and wonder each has to offer. Jazz is known and appreciated by many all over the World. The use of ex libris, or bookplates is less so. It is the intention of this introductory article to describe the relevance of both.

Jazz had its beginnings in the United States and ex libris has its roots in Europe. Many Jazz artists had difficulty in starting their musical careers at home. They went to Europe, where they pleased crowds of folks, who really appreciated their artistic creativity and ways of expression. After their reception in Europe, many jazz musicians returned to the United States, where they were finally accepted and admired.

There is a similar history and development for Ex Musicis, which is a bookplate applied to music libraries and more relevant to this article, regarding books about Jazz, its history, or biographies of Jazz artists and composers.

The Jazz Ex Libris or Ex Musicis is a personal expression of the owner. It is a reflection of how he feels about Jazz, what the music means to him, whether it is a glorification of individual instruments like the bass, sax - or the admiration for Jazz artists. Greats like "Ella," "Satchmo," "The Duke," "The Count,"or Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis or many others. It can also be a memory of the places, the clubs, the Strips where Jazz was happening, as represented by historical photos, stills from documentaries or vintage posters that can be shown on the design.

Jazz and Ex Libris -- An Introduction II

It could also be a tribute to a certain musical number or a riff that somehow stays with you forever. Or maybe the little drawing or doodle you did on a napkin at the club, that came from the inspiration from a tune played that touched your heart and soul at the moment. And it does not matter if the feeling was love, sorrow or anger - you were inspired and you expressed yourself.

So if Jazz is good for you and good to you, if you care about what you hear and what it says to you, if you are a musician, a dancer or a listener, whether you are at a festival, a show or a club, at a jam session in an empty church, an elevator, or in your car, if you love the books you own about jazz, take it a step farther and make an Ex Libris for yourself, for the band you are in or the club you belong to.

The Jazz Ex Libris can be made in many ways, depending on your budget. On the high end one can hire a well-known artist to design the graphics for you. If it is done as an etching or engraving or a linoleum cut and colors, it can be pricey. And it must be emphasized here that these are the kind that collectors want and will wish to trade for. Less expensive and desirable are ones that are generated by computer, but these are common and very affordable.

Jazz and Ex Libris -- An Introduction III

The Ex Libris lies closer to the heart and soul. It is also a way of expressing gratitude for jazz music, and all it does for us. It touches our lives so individually and intimately, mends the soul and allows the mind to recharge itself.

With these ideas about Jazz and Ex Libris, one wonders if there are any Ex Libris made for some famous jazz musicians and artists. Hopefully the answer is "Yes", and these are begging to be found. I hope that performing artists will be inspired to create their own Ex Musicis - their fans would surely appreciate these. This would be a very special touch and certainly collectible. So would Ex Libris bearing the name of bands, orchestras, or names of places, festivals, revivals, not to mention those that celebrate a new recording release. All these possibilities and the sky is the limit.

We have also seen jazz as an art form used to emphasize and dramatize movies, animation, documentaries and even advertising on television. It brings out the groove, the rhythm and mood of an otherwise dull presentation. Thus becoming a synthesis of vision and sound.

The Ex Libris for those who love Jazz should serve the purpose of a visual reminder of the music one loves. Seeing the Jazz Ex Libris should bring back memories and echoes of the tunes we’ve heard, the voices sung, the beat and the wail of the trumpet or saxophone, or the concluding Grand Finale of a session.

In conclusion it must be stated that the inspiration for writing this "introduction" was the desire to awaken the young people, the aspiring musicians and the readers to take some of these ideas; to make it their vision as well as the inspiration to express them. Hopefully, these introductory ideas will prompt your interest and appreciation for Jazz Ex Libris and Ex Musicis.