Features & Columns
Bruni Teams Up with
SJ Summer Jazz Fest
was designed by painter Bruni.
Finally, San Jose Jazz Summer Fest has teamed up with the most cosmic jazz painter to ever to spend a substantial amount of time in this area. As was unveiled yesterday, Bruni Sablan—the enigmatic, esoteric legend known by just her first name—painted the thematic material for this year's festival, which happens in August.
Along with other instrumentation, the painting features an abstract trombone mimicking the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest logo. A swirling piano keyboard accompanies a stand-up bass against a background that almost looks park-like. Could this be Plaza de Cesar Chavez in the background? I know not. Abstract movement, however jazz-like, connects the instruments together against a whimsical purple background that will eventually fade into the subtle borders of the festival poster and promotional materials.
The way I see it, this is a landmark collaboration, as musicians all over the world already know of Bruni's abstract color vibrations. I say "vibrations" because the way she implements color in her definitive jazz portraits is usually what moves viewers the most, whether they realize it or not. Above all else, Bruni captures the vibrations of the musicians and people she portrays, along with their music, their suffering and their perseverance. Esotericists throughout the centuries have waxed poetic about color theory, vibrations of specific hues and their effects on the human spirit, and Bruni probably falls into that process. And all of this is inseparable from jazz.
"It's not something I can see, it's what I feel," Bruni told me, when speaking of color vibrations.
From there, painting becomes a spiritual process for Bruni. Since she's met or known practically everyone—Miles, Dizzy and countless others—she slips into the musician's own cosmic realm when painting a portrait. She can feel her subject's pain and laugh at their jokes. When looking at her paintings, any viewer/participant with a deep sense of awareness will perceive specific moods. And those moods are inseparable from the colors Bruni uses.
What's more, the Bruni effect is part of local history. For nearly 20 years, Bruni set up shop in Los Gatos, with a gallery in Old Town, back when that center still looked interesting. Around 1999 she migrated over to Campbell, and then about five years ago opened up on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen. You won't find her during the daytime, as she works in private, usually into the wee morning hours. She pipes in the jazz and paints, a virtuosic routine she's deployed for decades.
But if one does stagger into her gallery, a treasure trove of paintings becomes apparent. Hundreds of canvases are attached to walls or leaned up against each other. Immediately inside the door, an entire section is devoted to Miles Davis, like a shrine to the iconoclastic jazzman of mystery. The eyes of Miles, like altarpieces atop the shrine, tend to speak volumes. Various color schemes capture his moods. Everything is vibration. One can almost hear Miles' scratchy voice dripping from the walls.
Since Bruni is Brazilian, she captures Brazilian geniuses whenever and wherever possible. It's in her blood. For example, on the opposite side of the gallery, more cosmic eyes appear. This time, it's Ayrton Senna, the legendary Brazilian Formula One driver, who died in a car accident more than 20 years ago. His eyes carry just as much emotion as those of Miles, if not more. A keen visitor will probably spend time just looking into the eyes of these characters. In that sense, I get inspired to write, and paint, every time I walk into the Bruni Gallery, which wouldn't possibly happen with any other establishment on that street, essentially a genteel conformist landscape.
That said, Bruni's painting for the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest is quite a departure, in the sense that it probably doesn't evoke the same space-time continuum-shattering connections to an artist's personality, moods, harmonics, orbits or philosophy. One probably won't tap into any cosmic jazz transmissions when viewing the image. Instead, it looks more like something one would hire an illustrator to do. No disrespect to illustrators, of course.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing. It's still Bruni. And I hope this leads to a long and fruitful collaboration.