“Thar she blows!” the cry comes from high up in the crow’s nest. “Thar she blows, a hump like a snow hill! It is Moby Dick!”
Feminizing all whales is part of the romance of the high seas. This she is really a he, the great White Whale who’s hunted monomaniacally by Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s profoundly precient and symbolically pregnant masterpiece, Moby-Dick or, The Whale.
Those who’ve read this blog over the years may be aware of the precipitous esteem I hold for this extraordinary book. It has inspired me to write a novel about its author, somewhat forestalled by a myriad of circumstances, but forthcoming in due time.
This is a book that an artist of some repute whom I know aptly characterized as “the first postmodern novel” — published in 1851! It might also be the most critically commented-upon work of fiction in modern history, and the most widely referenced in popular culture, certainly among books that are not often actually read.
It has also inspired the visual artist in me.
So I’ve undertaken a series of pastel drawings with Moby Dick as my motif. And one of the perhaps more successful of these will soon be on display in an art exhibit at the Jazz Gallery Center for the arts.
The exhibit is announced in this poster, though one correction the opening reception’s time has een changed to 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday:
The exhibit will include Linocut Print | Sculpture | Comic-Book Illustration | Photography | Assemblage Box-Making | Encaustic | Pastels | Screen Print | Painting | Digital Drawing
This event has brought me to the realization I should have a digital copy of this pastel professionally made. My apologies for the poorly depicted image at top. But you get the idea from my hand-held photo. I hope it strikes your fancy or interest enough to visit the opening or ensuing gallery days of this promising show.
Here’s an image of another artwork in the show, a block print by Jay Arpin.
Kevernacular (Kevin Lynch)
An astonishing upset: Jockey Sonny Leone (right) exhorts Rich Strike — the field’s longest-shot — past the leaders in the final few strides of the Kentucky Derby.
You watch the bird’s-eye replay of the race, with Rich Strike electronically highlighted to follow, and immediately you feel yourself rooting for this improbable horse, when you see where he is approaching the final turn — still behind sixteen horses!
After watching and re-watching the most electrifying two minutes in sports I’ve seen in a long time, I realized I needed to write something about Rich Strike’s astounding upset victory in the Kentucky Derby. This is culture of the most suddenly impactful sort, marking a legend like a streaking arrow, enriching history. It’s hard not to love the underdogs who’ve toppled the mighty, and the benefits that might signify, when the vast majority of the globe’s inhabitants live far beneath the mighty.
This event was also amazing to me because I had no rooting or betting interest in this. I do enjoy horse racing, but so casually that I usually even forget that the Kentucky Derby is happening, as I did this time.
So, there’s no built-in subjective reason this should be so thrilling for me.
This race has several key components: the horse, of course; the jockey, the horse’s long-shot betting odds, and the nature of this race itself.
First the horse, and all his improbability. He has never won a race before and didn’t even really qualify for this field. He was added only because another horse was scratched shortly before the beginning.
So, to the race: Rich Strike spends the first mile absolutely straggling, or so it seems, with only a few horses behind him.
Here’s the full race:
But the leaders set an extraordinarily fast pace, which will help determine what happens in that final turn. It’s always a great pleasure to watch the collective rhythm of racing horses — surging, sprinting, and jockeying for position, tails a-wagging.
The thundering hooves continue until the horses are nearing the final turn and the home stretch.
Here the tell-tale overhead camera pinpoints Rich Strike. It’s amazing to see the ground he makes up from here:
Even as Rich Strike finally clears a bunch of horses and finds the inside railing clear and open, the betting favorite, Epicenter, has just surged powerfully into the lead. And the final turn is in process, so Epicenter can see the tall, white finishing pole by now and looks dead-on determined to not lose the lead.
Meanwhile, Rich Strike has grabbed your attention as jockey Sonny Leone — riding his very first Derby — maneuvers the three-year-old out of a jostling mess of horses. Increasingly I realize what a brilliantly savvy horseman he was. Yet, you still don’t think the longest shot has a chance, nor any other horse, at that point. The announcer Larry Collmus, is now bullishly calling the drama, growling out “Epicenter takes the lead!” with stentorian power. He’s a great race caller, with a perfectly attuned sense of drama dynamics.
And yet, here is where the greatest underdog begins to accelerate and, as you watch him zoom past horses, you begin to lose your breath. He has to finally move back inside around the number-three horse to make his final hurdle-to-glory run.
And sure as hell, there he is, gaining on the two lead horses. Here’s where the fast pace comes into play because, despite the impressive lead of the two battling horses, they may be losing gas. And Rich Strike apparently has saved enough in that first half mile that he could now show the world how powerful and brilliant a sprinter he is — at the very end. And what kind of character he has. You certainly could sense that this horse wanted it more than any other, because there was a hard-to-measure willfulness in that dazzling final dash to victory.
At the finish line, Rich Strike has come “out of nowhere” to win The Kentucky Derby by one length. NBC
You begin to see why the overhead video already has 12.7 million views. Because I lacked historical perspective, I’d like to share a Twitter comment from Zeus Gunior, a horseracing fan of 50 years:
“Absolutely, positively the greatest final turn run I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been watching the triple crown races for 50 years. Rich Strike was on after burners. Super charged to the max. Amazing rider, even more – amazing horse. Faster than the wind.”
Mr. Gunior combines a modern, relatively high-tech analogy “on after burners,” which references how supersonic jets employ a surge even after their main fuel line is expended. And then, of course, “faster than the wind” is an aptly elemental simile that lifts the horse into an almost mythical stratosphere, as the wind can move as fast as a hurricane, or a typhoon.
And because horse racing is one of the most ancient and time-honored sporting events, you feel it’s elemental drama and majesty.
But something has to provide a measure of explanation for this extraordinary performance.
That is a topic for anyone to chew on who sees this race. I’m a bit gassed myself, in the best sense, thanks to a thrilling and inspiring champion.
Finally, only a few strides from the finish line, the announcer is loudly hailing the two shoulder-to-shoulder leaders, Epicenter and Zandon — he suddenly gasps and must yell out another name for the first time: “Rich Strike is coming up on the inside! Oh, my goodness! The longest-shot has won The Kentucky Derby!”
He has won by a whole length. Suddenly. Unbelievably. A legend is born.
Jazz artist Jamie Breiwick’s voice and vision have steadily grown, like rippling concentric circles, since he first caught the attention of fellow musicians, critics, and the public. The wind of his trumpet blowing plays a factor, but the wavelike depths arose from his extraordinary knowledge and honoring of the modern jazz tradition, while finding places in contemporary pop vernaculars for his voice, and realizing the wellsprings of his own creative identity.
That analogy seems apt as his seminal inspiration was Miles Davis, who shaped the tides of jazz time for decades, with an uncanny, lyrical and impressionistic sensibility, even as funky as he could get. “I had a Miles t-shirt in high school that I wore constantly,” Breiwick recalls. “The breadth of music he made is really staggering, whether bebop, free, rock, fusion, electronic, experimental, pop, hip-hop. He really blazed a lot of trails and left us with a lifetime of inspiration.”
Right now, Breiwick ranks among the four or five most important jazz musicians in Wisconsin and, among them, the youngest one on a still-rising arc of creative possibility. His prolific recorded output includes with De La Buena, and the influential 25-year band Clamnation. The pandemic threw many artists askew, but Breiwick pressed full-speed ahead, with voluminous recording and releasing on his own B-Side Recordings label.
The group KASE: Jamie Breiwick, trumpet and electronics; John Christensen, bass; knowsthetime, turntables and electronics.
Breiwick’s graphic design talents sped this output. He creates all his own album covers (and those of others) with an imaginative but clean, post-1960s Blue Note Records compositional style. He just published a book of his jazz cover designs concurrently with an emblematic album, KASE + Klassik Live at the Opera House. His jazz-hip-hop-electronics trio, with bassist John Christensen and turntablist Jordan Lee, joined Klassik, perhaps the region’s most musically gifted improv hip-hop singer-song maker, who also plays keyboards and saxophone. KASE logically expands Breiwick’s creative ripples into exploring “sonic landscapes” – Miles ahead, atmospheric, wonder-inducing.
The cassette cover of “KASE + Klassik Live at the Opera House,” designed by Jamie Breiwick. Courtesy B-Side Graphics
Breiwick’s recorded and group projects have probed ground-breaking jazzers, including Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, and world-music traveler Don Cherry. He’s also played and recorded transcribed Davis solos for two Hal Leonard play-along books, among six various he’s recorded. He values innovative contemporaries like Jason Moran, Ambrose Akinmusire and Nicholas Payton, “an incredible trumpet player and musical conceptualist,” and “a thought leader and outspoken BAM (Black American Music) advocate.” He also teaches music at Prairie School, near Racine. How good is Breiwick teaching music? In 2013, he was nominated for the first-ever Grammy Music Educator Award, selected as one of 200 semi-finalists among over 30,000 nominees.
The cover of The Jewel: Live at the Dead Poet.
Shortly before the pandemic, Breiwick recorded The Jewel: Live at the Dead Poet, a New York trio recording on the leading independent label Ropeadope, with internationally acclaimed drummer-bandleader Matt Wilson, thus extending his national modern-jazz bona fides.
Breiwick plays a live date (here and in photo at top) with renowned drummer Matt Wilson and bassist John Tate.
Breiwick leaves popular success largely to his evolution and artistic authenticity.
“I think it is all in the delivery – people can tell if you are sincere or not. I try to create music and art that I would like myself and try not to be too corny or contrived, while at the same time recognizing my influences. What did Coltrane say? ‘You can play a shoestring if you are sincere,’ I think that is perfect.”
But he knows jazz musicians always need help in America’s capitalist society. Today they can increasingly help each other with online resources. In 2010, Breiwick co-founded Milwaukee Jazz Vision, an online organization that promotes jazz and its community in the Milwaukee area.
His visual-designer talents suggest deeper creative destinations. “It is a similar path of discovery. Visual art and music relate in so many ways – texture, structure, organization, color, tone. Five or six of my favorite designers are also musicians. There’s some sort of elemental connection between the two disciplines…Miles Davis was an incredible painter. Jean-Michel Basquiat deeply loved music and often used musical imagery or references such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in his works.”
Perhaps his most daring recent recording is Solve for X, duets with a longtime collaborator. Guitarist-synthesist Jay Mollerskov took samples of Breiwick’s own trumpet solos, to create sonic counterpoints and textural backdrops for Breiwick to play against. It works like a musical mosaic – outward refracting, rather than narcissistic. That’s because Breiwick knows of whence he came, as a trumpeter and creator.
“I’m inspired by a lot of things, all sorts of music, visual art, architecture, history, stories, traveling,” he says. “I am just trying to better find out who I am, and ultimately just trying to keep moving forward.”
“Like (trumpeter) Clark Terry said, ‘Emulate, assimilate, innovate.’”
So, Breiwick’s self-discovery proceeds. As to forward progress, only time, his seemingly ever-expanding wave, will tell.
This article was originally published in slightly shorter form in the May 2022 print magazine edition of The Shepherd Express, available free at many locations around Milwaukee County.