'Tightrope Walker' by Lol Hardiman
I'm really pleased to give you a preview of the fantastic artwork for 'Unfolding In Tempo.' I commissioned the piece from the incredible artist Lol Hardiman who I met at the Clifden Arts Festival in 2014. Lol took me on a tour of his gallery and explained the thinking behind his paintings. I was blown away by his skill and imagination! I wanted to buy a pice right then, but it wasn't possible, so I'm really pleased to have his incredible input to the album.
'Tightrope Walker' (above) is a representation of the challenges faced by an artist when trying to re-imagine the work of a master - in the case of 'Unfolding In Tempo,' Duke Ellington. Lol's painting style for 'Tightrope Walker' has taken influence from the German Expressionist school, which helps bring an element of unease and tension to the piece. I was so pleased with how Lol captured the spirit of the album, playful yet edgy. Here are a few words from the album's liner notes that explain it better;
I was immediately drawn to Ellington. Pretty quickly I began to uncover not only his long acknowledged genius, but also the instrumental mastery and musical innovations of the profound artists with whom he chose to surround himself. It became clear to me the depth of Duke's compositions were not only matched by, but interwoven with the beauty of their performance. I was inspired to find a group that could work in this spirit; a group of strong individuals that had the ability and understanding to reference the original intent of Ellington's music, yet not be held captive by it.
The whole experience of performing such sacred material is like walking a high wire - trying to balance respect for, and understanding of, the tradition with a fresh approach. To walk the wire can be very intimidating. The way is narrow and the weight of tradition bears heavy; it is very easy to slip off, to plunge into the mundane, the quotidian, as Billy Strayhorn might have put it. Yet it is that very tension, that danger, that breathes life into a performance, gives it meaning, forces the improviser to tell a story not entirely devoted to reminiscing, but one that is continually unfolding in tempo.
Please check out Lol and his fantastic work at www.lolhardiman.com.