Kool Kat of the Week: Tracy Murrell Creates Retro Art For the 21st Century, Work Featured In Upcoming Exhibit At Lowe Gallery

Posted on: Feb 19th, 2014 By:

"Torchy" by Tracy Murrell. Used with permission.

One of Atlanta’s hottest rising visual artists and this week’s Kool Kat, Tracy Murrell, plays with pin-ups and cartoon pop art in her latest installation, part of the Fine Arts Workshop Group Exhibition, which opens Friday, Feb. 21 at the Bill Lowe Gallery in Midtown.

A minimalist painter inspired by vintage iconic photographs, Murrell reduces her subjects to their essential elements, eliminating everything until it’s stripped to raw imagery, exposing their most compelling details. Her latest work features female forms reminiscent of sophisticated pin-ups. But for Murrell they are much more. Inspired by the stunning images of pioneering artist Jackie Ormes (1911 – 1985), the first African-American woman cartoonist, Murrell explores racial and gender stereotypes. She reimages the original cartoons, sometimes morphing her own likeness with Ormes’ original groundbreaking female African-American archetype, creating an ‘avatar’ for her struggle for her own identity as an artist and a woman. Painted in high key color, reminiscent of Pop and Post Pop Masters such as Lichtenstein, Katz and Hume, Murrell’s work prompts the viewer to question their own beliefs about race and gender, as well as what is high and low art. Her bright, bold, provocative works are already causing a stir with private collectors.

On a recent weekend, while busily working on several large canvases in her studio at the King Plow Arts Center, Murrell is percolating with ideas while she talks about her work. “I always drew from the time I could hold a crayon,” Murrell explains.  “My dad was in the Air Force so we moved a lot and I took influences from different places. We spent four years outside Madrid, Spain when I was a child. I think the colors and flavors of life there greatly affected my view of the world and my art.”  After Spain, The Murrells returned to the states and settled in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Tracy Murrell in her King Plow studio. Photo credit: Shiela Turner.

“I took art classes in college but didn’t consider it a real career choice because I was studying to be a child psychiatrist. I got a degree in psychology and then got an offer in Atlanta in the music industry,” Murrell continues. “I landed a great job with Red Distribution/Sony Records which lead to a dream job with EMI Records. I needed something to balance the craziness of the music industry so one afternoon I went to the art store and bought a canvas so huge that I had to borrow a truck to get it home. I put it in the corner of my kitchen and painted and repainted on that canvas for two years until I liked what I saw. I realized I needed to paint or I would go crazy.”

By 2009, Murrell was at a crossroads and realized she wanted her work to have deeper meaning. She began the search for a mentor. Answering an open call to work with renowned artist Louis Delsarte on his 125-foot-long Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mural introduced her to a collaborative artistic environment, which she loved. It also led to finding her mentor, Michael David and the Fine Arts Workshop.

Working with Michael and the artists who are part of the Fine Arts Workshop has been a life-changing experience for Murrell as she begins to establish herself as a professional artist. In the process she’s been tracing her family history with art and connecting the dots. Her mom is an avid art collector, teacher and curator. And she discovered that her great uncle Elton Fax is a significant artist and writer.

It was while researching Fax’s work during the Harlem Renaissance that Murrell discovered Ormes. The more she read about her, the more she felt they were kindred spirits. Among Murrell’s favorite subjects is Jackie Ormes’ famous 1930s character, Torchy Brown.  Murrell’s “Torchy” series pays homage to Ormes.

"Girlfriends" by Tracy Murrell. Used with permission.

Another step along Murrell’s artistic path has been working as a marketing consultant and a curator. Working in the music industry taught her valuable skills that she brought to the Atlanta Jazz Festival’s 2012 marketing team, in her current position with the National Black Arts Festival, and as the curator at Hammonds House Museum for the last two years.

“I love exhibition making,” Murrell says. “Instead of paint, I use an artist’s work as my medium. It has helped me grow as an artist. I study each of the mediums as we present them so I am learning constantly. I have become more sensitive to the partnership between art and the public.”

The opening reception at Bill Lowe Gallery is from 6-9 p.m. on Fri. Feb. 21. The gallery is located at 1555 Peachtree Street NE #100, Atlanta, GA 30309. To see examples of Tracy Murrell’s art visit her Website at: www.tracymurrell.com.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week #2: The Better Half Will Reach You: Jazz Singer Yolanda Rabun Is Keeping It So Real at the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Yolanda Rabun.

The Atlanta Jazz Festival brings a national and international who’s who of the art form to Piedmont Park for an amazing free concert every Memorial Day Weekend. With so many incredible artists, we decided we couldn’t pick just one, so this week, look out for two Kool Kats.

Kool Kat #2 is Yolanda Rabun, one real lady of jazz who’ll be singing both her own originals and classic pieces on Memorial Day Monday, May 28 at 3 p.m. The former Atlantan now lives in North Carolina but is excited to be returning home in support her debut CD SO REAL, and we can’t wait to hear her, whether she’s channeling classic chanteuse Billie Holliday or showing us with her voice how the true meaning of love embodies peace and harmony and even when true love means it’s time to leave. She has sung with Isaac Hayes for President Ronald Reagan, performed with Clay Aiken, been the lead vocalist of the Stanley Baird Group opening for Jennifer Holliday and traveled the world. All at the same time as serving as corporate counsel for a Top 5 Forbes company. We caught up with her to find out more about her eclectic background, what her mother taught her about music and life, and what it means to be So Real…

How did you discover jazz?

My mom introduced me to Nancy Wilson and Nina Simone when I was younger. Billie Holliday was a really big hero of mine. And Diane Reeves. My background is musical theater. I always think of musical theater as a story being told to music and that’s what jazz does too. As I got older I was called by jazz bands asking me to come play with them, and I began stepping out. In fact, throughout school I would sing with different jazz bands. I’d do things here and there, but I really got into my jazz vocal career five to six years ago when I became the official lead jazz singer for a band in North Carolina.

Who are some of your favorite classic jazz singers and why?

Billie Holliday, her music changed during the course of her career and that was very impressionable on me because it gave me meaning behind what jazz what can be. When I think of jazz, I think of improvisation—feeling through music based on what’s going on around you, being more straightforward with tones, more purposeful with meaning. As Billie got older and had been through more, her music became slower, energy more focused either in the emotion of anger or the emotion of sorrow. That was amazing for me. This woman could take music and deliver a message basically through the emotion going on in her life and the song. That’s a skill that I’ve worked on through my years studying music.

Sara Vaughn and Dinah Washington also made an impression on me, and Nancy Wilson is one of my biggest influences.

Trumpeter Al Strong and Yolanda Rabun at Raleigh's Artsplosure Festival 2012. Photo credit: Frank Myers.

Do you consider your style to be traditional jazz or contemporary jazz?

I don’t even think I want to be labeled. I like to be considered both so I’m not put in one corner or other. There’s a photo of me with a flower in my hair on my album, and that’s part of my brand. When you see it, you probably think Billie Holliday. I almost want to you, I sing traditional jazz in live shows. But listen to all of my music and you’ll find out it’s a mix. I want to send the message that whether I am singing contemporary or classic jazz as it was back in the day, whether soulful jazz or gospelly jazz, in the end it is jazz. And jazz is delivering emotion through the actual sound you hear in the music.

There must be a great story about how you came to sing and do a recording with Isaac Hayes and sing for President Reagan?

I was a junior at Northside School of the Arts and President Reagan was visiting. There was a big production and they wanted a song. They said Isaac Hayes was producing it and my face lit up. When I met him, he said he was so glad I was singing it. He was amazing. He was very caring about what needed to happen but also very stern and concerned that I was at my best. When I did it, it was on CNN and all the news stations. As soon as the song was over, I got so excited that I turned around and shook President Reagan’s hand. The Secret Service didn’t expect that. But he grabbed me and hugged me. It was a great experience all around, meeting the President and working with Isaac Hayes.

You often quote the statement: “Half of what I say is meaningless but I only say it so that the other half may reach you.” Where did you get that from?

It was something my mother said to me. I always wondered what she was saying. But I know now it means to pay attention to everything that is said since the portion that you need the most comes when you are ready to receive it.  The story about Isaac Hayes and being able to meet the president—what does that all mean? Mr. Hayes said a lot to me in the course of our working, I remember him reiterating that I would be a singing lawyer and that I am! In the end, it’s about having been blessed and continually being blessed to be able to work with really great people in my career. I’m based in NorthCarolina now, have traveled all around the world and I get to come back home to Atlanta for the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Did you know I used to sing the theme song for Atlanta and now I am coming back toAtlantato sing my music. I’m really, really excited.

Can you take a little about your debut CD SO REAL?

SO REAL is smooth and soul jazz. I started writing the song “So Real” for my husband. It was exciting for me, doing a demo and getting back into the field of music. As a corporate lawyer,  I’d gone full surge into that career but I wanted to get back to music. I wrote the song “So Real” as part of a demo and then set it aside.  Finally, the hard start of stepping out on my own and starting on my own album began in 2010. Because everything became  “so real,” that’s the music I wanted to sing and make my own. I took the single and created a full HD video, and then it toured to Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Jordan. I sang for it for the US troops because what they are doing for us was so real. Then I finished the album and took it back to Diego Garcia, and the  response  was amazing. The “So Real” song and album did well on the charts for the independent labels in the UK. I can’t even tell you how overwhelmed and excited I am.

Can you give us a taste of what you’ll be performing at the Atlanta Jazz Festival?

Hi, I’m Yolanda Rabun here and this is my new contemporary jazz album “So Real.” That’s a big deal. I’ve been the lead singer for a jazz group and now I’m stepping out and here I am. You will see a mixture of a lot of musical influences, Nancy Wilson,  Billie Holliday and others that will surprise a few. I will do some songs from my SO REAL album, and a song by one of the biggest influences in my life out of all my influences, Gladys Knight! My songs involve a journey of love, a journey of freedom, a journey of harmony and peace. My show is centered around the idea of real love and what that is, whether it’s blossoming, wonderful and happy or searching and unclear. In the end it’s about harmony and peace.

I’m from Florida but grew up in Atlanta. I went to Warren T Jackson Elementary, SuttonMiddle School and Northside School of the Performing Arts. I met my husband, Rick, in Atlanta, I was married in Atlanta (formerly known as Yolanda Williams) , one of my children was christened in Atlanta at my home church (Cascade United Methodist), my mom, (Kappitola) is in Atlanta where I was raised as her only child.  Atlanta is my home. I’m coming full circle. I started in Atlanta with my music, went off and became a lawyer, and now I’m coming back with my music.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week #1: Jazz Meets Mizrahi and Rock: Up-and-Coming Israeli Artist Nadav Remez Brings His Unique Spin to the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 By:

The Atlanta Jazz Festival brings a national and international who’s who of the art form to Piedmont Park for an amazing free concert every Memorial Day Weekend. With so many incredible artists, we decided we couldn’t pick just one, so this week, look out for two Kool Kats.

Nadav Remez. Photo credit: Dana Merison.

The first is guitarist Nadav Remez. He’ll be playing Sunday, May 27 at 6:30 pm. Lauded as one of today’s top emerging jazz voices, he grew up in Israel, scored a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, also studied at the New England Conservatory and now resides in New York. Last year he released his debut CD, SO FAR. As for his music, it has been called “haunting” and reflects the versatility of jazz as an art form merging modern jazz, alternative rock and traditional Israeli folk music.

You have a really interesting background having grown up in Israel and had your first music education there. How did that shape your approach to jazz?

I grew up in the Tel Aviv area and into a situation that resembles many other places in the Western world in the ‘90s. I listened to a lot of pop music, British and American. We had MTV Europe, which was different from MTV in America because it actually played a lot of music, not just reality shows. So when I was a teenager, my musical inclination was very pop-oriented. However, in Israel, international pop was just one channel feeding us musically. We also got some other types of music, what we call mizrahi music which is our folk pop music, popular Middle Eastern music. So we grew up listening on the radio here to one song from the UK Top 40 and then the next song would be Middle Eastern. As time went by, from the ‘90s into the 2000s with the Internet, more people [in Israel] were exposed to different kinds of music, and musicians started mixing these kinds of music together. If you turn on the radio today, you find our pop has a lot of Middle Eastern elements.

Then I went to Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, a famous art high school with a jazz major that produced many famous Israeli jazz artists. That’s where I first heard about jazz, and it was very exciting experience. I was woken up to a new reality. Jazz was a music that’s not just something around you, not just something that you played coincidentally but something very serious and very deep. That’s when jazz came into place for me, into my world. I was lucky to have many teachers dedicated to jazz as an art form, who really taught me a lot about what the music means—teachers who had lived in the US in New York. So they brought their love of jazz over toIsraeland to many of my peers.

Nadav Remez. Photo credit: Dana Merison.

Who are your favorite classic Retro jazz musicians and why?

For me, going into high school, I was so shocked by this new thing in my life called jazz. I just wanted to explore it all around, but my teachers told me that in mu first years of listening to jazz, I should be listening to jazz from the first half of the 20th century up to the ‘60s. That’s when a lot of the innovations in jazz were taking place—Charlie Parker in the ‘30s and ‘40s, John Coltrane in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, etc. I was focusing a lot on bebop, hard bop and post bop, styles that emerged in the early  ‘40s to mid ‘60s. With jazz in those days, it really was about listening to different musicians but whoever I was listening to, they stood out as geniuses because they all were. That being said, I was very much into Coltrane. He and Charlie Parker are like the gods of that era. There are no rules but I’d say to someone who is an aspiring jazz musician in their teens, before you go to newer music, you should check out the roots because that’s where the music comes from.

Your approach is very eclectic and innovative, blending Eastern and Western sounds. Can you talk a little about how you developed your unique style and sound?

That all started when I was at the Berklee College of Music in Boston about five to seven years ago. I and a group of other Israeli musicians started to experiment with long improvisation forms that came from jazz and added Middle Eastern aesthetics to it. That’s where our ears pulled to naturally. After I started playing with it, I also started writing my own music and thinking about my first album, SO FAR. At this time, I was trying to absorb what was around me. Jazz musicians stay close to their roots. So I started to listen to more Middle Eastern music and trying to apply those concepts and ideas into my jazz, and also rock and pop, mainly ‘90s sounds. Radiohead was a very big influence.

Your Atlanta performance is with a special project, right?

Yes, the Nadav Remez/Omer Avital Quintet. It brings together songs that I wrote and songs that Omer Avital wrote. He’s a very important figure in jazz right now and a bass player with many albums behind him, both as a leader and a sideman – currently with Yemen Blues and Third World Love. This [performance] will be a combination of tunes by me and tunes by him. Like all music, it’s in a way both similar and different because we both grow up inIsraelin similar settings. But he’s older than me—he’s 40 now—so he has other Israeli influences from when he was growing up. Even though one could hear both the pop/rock influences, as well as the mizrahi influences, in both our musics, Omer’s music leans more towards the mizrahi, while my music leans a little bit more towards rock. The quintet also includes Greg Tardy [tenor saxophone], Jason Lindner [piano and keyboards] and Yoni Halevy [drums]. It’s a high profile line-up which I am very excited to perform with.

Playing Smalls in NYC. Photo credit: Dana Morgan.

If we go to New York, where should we go to listen to some great jazz?

Personally I like going to places like Smalls, Village Vanguard and Fat Cat. But these days in New York, you can hear great music all over the city, not only in Manhattan. There is a vibrant scene in Brooklyn as well. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper and see what’s going on tonight or look online. I recently found an iPhone app called NY Jazz, that displays a comprehensive list of jazz shows as far as a month in advance. The New York scene is very alive with contemporary jazz, cutting edge jazz and also traditional jazz—which also is cutting edge.

You just said traditional jazz is cutting edge. What do you mean?

Because jazz is a music of the moment. Even if you play with the traditional language from the ‘50s and ‘60s, you can still have lot to say and make very strong statements.

What’s next for you?

[Omer and I] have a few more shows [together]. In June and July, we have a residency in Smalls Jazz Club in New York with Omer’s new band called Band of the East, and then there are several other projects in 2012 that are going to involve us playing and performing together. With my own group, I will be travelling in July to Germany to play at the Palataia Jazz Festival and plan to perform in Israel in August and September.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekend Update, May 27-29, 2011

Posted on: May 27th, 2011 By:

Friday, May 27

Bubbapalooza, Atlanta’s biggest annual rockabilly/Redneck Underground festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend at Star Bar, and the fun starts at 7 PM tonight. Be sure and read the sneak preview/tribute piece with Bryan Malone and Ted Weldon here and get the band full schedule for Friday and Saturday here.

Mon Cherie Presents Va-Va Voom Black Light Burlesque Show, which has the awesome tagline “Where Kool Kats Go and Boobies Glow!”, at The Shelter. Emcee is the delectable Miss Mason and performers include The Chameleon Queen, Stormy Knight, Scarlett Page, Jon Pine, Tupelo Honey, Katarina Laveaux, Kittie Katrinaand newcomer Davana Scott. As usual, there’ll also be a Ragin’ Raffle with great prizes from a variety of vendors.

As a time-traveling Website, ATLRetro would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Friday also kicks off TimeGate, a convention celebrating two time-traveling TV shows/movie franchises which originated in the 20th century DOCTOR WHO and STARGATE. Guests include actress Sophie Aldred, who played Ace from 1987-89 with seventh doctor Sylvester McCoy.

Broadway and London musical superstar Patti Lupone brings her show-stopping revueCOULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at theWoodruff Arts Center. Michael Brown Quartet brings rhythm & blues and jazz to Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.

Saturday May 28

Decatur Arts Festival paints the suburb’s streets with art vendors, live musical performances including Cowboy Envy at noon, street food and kids activities. The 34th annual Atlanta Jazz Festival runs all day from 1 PM until after dark at Piedmont Park.

Caroline Hull Engel of Caroline & the Ramblers, among Saturday bands at Bubbapalooza 20.

Bubbapalooza revs up with doors at 3 PM and live music starting at 4 PM at Star Bar, including the Redneck Cruise-In Car Show featuring pre-1970s and earlier hot rods and cycles starting at 5 PM in the parking lot; barbecue by Slope’s BBQ; raffle & prizes; chance to get your official Bubbapalooza 20th anniversary photo taken at the PBR Photo Booth; and Internet motorhead radio station Garage 71 broadcasting live all night from The Little Vinyl Lounge. For a complete band listing, click here.

Broadway and London musical superstar Patti Lupone performs her show-stopping revue COULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA for a second night with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Woodruff Arts Center. DJ Romeo Colognetransforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday May 29

Decatur Arts Festival continues, with bands including the jazzy Bonaventure Quartet featuring Amy Pike at 2 PM, rockin’ blues with Delta Moon at 4 PM and then wrapping up at 7 PM with Swingin’ on the Square. The Atlanta Jazz Festival also starts back up at 1 PM at Piedmont Park with a mix of vintage and contemporary style jazz performers. The contributions of veterans not just of current conflicts but WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War will be celebrated during Veterans Remembrance Day at the Atlanta History Center. Spend a day in the company of veterans and living history interpretors who will tell their stories using authentic dress, equipment and vehicles. The Barrow Boys headline blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl.

Closing this week

At the High Museum of Art through May 29 is the MOMA-organized HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: THE MODERN CENTURY, a blockbuster exhibit showcasing a photographer and photojournalist who captured on film many of the seminal moments  of the 20th century from World War II to the assassination of Ghandi, China’s cultural revolution to civil rights and consumer culture in America.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool Retro happening, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.


 

Category: Weekend Update | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2019 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress