I have two articles in today's Wall Street Journal that I think you'll enjoy. The first is a fascinating conversation with artist Chuck Close on his New York City loft and how he found the right red to paint his living room (go here or please buy today's paper—it starts on page 1 of the Mansion section). [Photo above of Chuck Close at home by Allison Michael Orenstein for The Wall Street Journal]
The other is my "Anatomy of a Song" column on the writing and recording of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's Kansas City. Mike [above] has become a dear friend and it's always a joy to chat with him about the history of rock and roll as well as his music (go here or please buy today's paper for the Arena section).
I've always been a big fan of Chuck's work. I love the aggressive size of his pieces and how he has managed to turn ego into a still life. While you may think that Chuck's supersized portraits are merely large photos, in fact many are paintings. Chuck takes detailed photo portraits of his subjects and then paints the colors and dots he sees in the images. What's fabulous is that while the camera nearly upended painting when the technology was introduced in the late 19th century, Chuck has turned the tables on the camera, painting what the camera sees and doing so in a much more interesting way. But he's also a spectacular portrait photographer [Painting above: Chuck Close's Big Self-Portrait, 1967-68]
Several weeks ago, I floated the idea of a "House Call" with Chuck's media and gallery representatives. He rather liked the concept and agreed, inviting me to his apartment to tour around. I also had a chance to visit his studio to see the art he's working on now. It's absolutely fascinating. All I'll say is that his new massive portraits are less detailed in places, forcing you to look a little harder. I also had a chance to see him at the private opening of his new show—Chuck Close: Nudes 1967-2014—at New York's Pace Gallery and at the dinner that followed. Chuck is an exceedingly kind and generous guy who loves people and fun—the more the better. [Above, Kate by Chuck Close, 2007—a Jacquard data tapestry of model Kate Moss]
The same goes for Mike Stoller. He began in the music business with the late Jerry Leiber in 1950, when they started writing together in Los Angeles. Which means he's been in the R&B and rock 'n' roll business longer than almost anyone else around today—pre-dating Fats Domino by two years, Elvis and Chuck Berry by five years and the Beatles by 10 years. Mike is no stranger to jazz. He began by taking boogie-woogie lessons with James P. Johnson in the 1940s when his family still lived in New York. He's always had a deep love for jazz, swing and the blues.
When I was in L.A. in January, we had dinner and played a game. One hummed a few bars of a bebop tune and the other had to name the tune. Mike knows his bebop cold. And as you might expect, Mike is a very cool guy, razor sharp when it comes to the music's long history and as humble as can be. He'd rather shrug off a compliment than feed into it. His excellent memoir, Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography (Simon & Schuster), can be found here. [Photo above of the late Jerry Leiber, left, and Mike Stoller]
JazzWax extras: Here's a documentary on Chuck Close...
And here's a documentary on Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber...