The crowd at the Phillips Collection enjoyed live music while viewing several floors of art. Nearly 1,000 visitors joined a unique collaboration with DC JazzFest called “Phillips After 5: All That Jazz.” Live music during the evening was provided by The Langston Hughes II Quartet, double bass master Herman Burney, and steel pan soloist Jeremey Caesar.
The Phillips, located in the Dupont Circle area of the District, is currently hosting “Frank Stewart’s Nexus,” a photography exhibition capturing the world as seen by the acclaimed photographer. The exhibition brings together a comprehensive visual autobiography through over 100 black-and-white and color photographs.
Stewart is especially known for his photos of musicians, which linked him to the evening of art and music at the Phillips. For 30 years, Stewart was senior staff photographer for Jazz at Lincoln Center, headed by trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator Wynton Marsalis. Stewart’s lens has globally explored faces, events, and the environment. His intricate look at musicians was not lost on the artists who represented DC JazzFest at the Phillips.
Paintings and Photos Set the Mood
The sounds of Caesar’s steel pan greeted visitors entering The Phillips. His tunes took you to another country. Caesar performed near an inkjet color print of jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal. The piano keys are reflected on Jamal’s glasses.
“It is just great to know that someone can devote their life, craft, skills and talents to capturing the arts,” said Caesar, whose family is from Trinidad and Tobago.
Hughes’ quartet played two sets in the Phillips Music Room. Both sets were packed, enjoying saxophonist, composer and bandleader Hughes II, pianist Lonell Johnson III, bassist Chris Hon, and drummer Kevin Kearney.
“Through Frank Stewart’s artwork, the beauty and intricate nuances of musicians’ lives come to life,” said Hughes II, a recent Howard University master’s degree graduate, who enters The Juilliard School this month.
“The musicians captured in Stewart’s work are heroes of mine, making the opportunity to perform in an exhibit that honors their legacy all the more meaningful to me.”
Stewart’s Work Through Eight Small Galleries
The full “Nexus” exhibition occupies the third floor in the Phillips Annex. Eight smaller galleries, each with a theme, offer an in-depth feel for Stewart’s work. “Chromatic Music” was the gallery where double bass master Burney gave a special solo performance.
Surrounding the bassist were color photographs by Stewart, featuring various musicians and music events. One was of a group baptism of parishioners in New York, and the other was award-winning jazz vocalist Cécile Salvant McLorin performing on New Year’s Eve.
Burney was focused on his music as observers of Stewart’s photographs walked through the gallery and then stopped to listen.
Later, he told the Informer that solo bass performing is a lot harder compared to playing with a group of fellow musicians.
“You are functioning as the conductor and musician and playing different parts at the same time,” said Burney, who is on the faculty in Howard University’s Music Department. “It’s a challenge doing this on the bass because it is often not the front instrument.”
Burney continued by talking about his 25-year friendship with Stewart. There was a time when both were at New York’s Lincoln Center. Once Burney discovered that his camera was taken out of his case by Stewart and put back. He realized what Stewart had done when he saw pictures in the camera of himself playing taken by his friend.
“I consider him a wanna-be musician because he has such great shots of musicians,” Burney said about Stewart with a slight laugh. “The reverse is that I’m a musician, and I want to be a photographer.”
The “Frank Stewart’s Nexus” exhibition continues at The Phillips Collection until Sept. 3.