I was wandering through the fourth floor gallery of the museum, taking in the creative ecstasy of works by Picasso, Tinguely and Giacometti. The sounds of a smooth mellow sax wafted up from the lobby, and then the jazz quartet broke into “Our Love is Here to Stay.”
It was a sublime moment of quintessential cool.
I could hardly believe I was in Charlotte.
But I was indeed in the Queen City – at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art for its First Friday jazz concert.
It was cold with a hard rain on Feb. 4. But that didn’t stop some 150 people who came to chill out surrounded by the hot combination of 20th century music and art.
The Bechtler has been open for more than a year, and I am a bit red-faced to admit it was my first visit there. As museums go, it’s on the small size, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the artwork in an intimate setting as well as sit in the lobby and groove with the Ziad Jazz Quartet, all in about two hours.
Aficionados of modern abstract art will be in seventh heaven at the Bechtler, while those still trying to figure it out will be introduced gently to the concepts. Everyone can enjoy the current exhibit, School of Paris European Abstraction Post World War II (on display through March 14).
My favorite moment was getting off the elevator and immediately recognizing a mixed-media piece by Jean Tingueley. The animal skull and bones with industrial wheels and a small motor repeats the theme of his commissioned piece in the lobby of the Carillon Building in uptown Charlotte.
This piece, Execution, made me smile broadly with delight just as I do whenever I return to the larger piece in the Carillon, called Cascade (with a water feature) that was the last art Tinguely created before his death. I had the rare and joyous privilege to briefly meet him when he was in Charlotte to install it.
But there was more delight to come. During its second set, the Ziad Quartet was joined by local singer Toni Tupponce, a tiny woman with a remarkable voice and an incredible style imbued with a large heart. As magical as the art and the quartet had been, her performance was the high point of the evening. The crowd’s response told me it was a shared feeling.
My friends and I had dinner reservations, so we had to leave before the set was over. As we got to the door, the unmistakable opening riff of “Fever” caught our attention. We stopped. Tupponce’s rendition of this sexy, typically minimalist song was high-energy and distinctive. Ziad’s sax solo added intensity you usually don’t associate with this oh-so-mellow classic.
We were mesmerized and stood there transfixed by the door – and were late for dinner.
The evening was cool, but looking back on it, “what a lovely way to burn.”
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 So. Tryon St., Charlotte 28202
704.353.9200 www. Bechtler.org
Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm (Closed Tuesday). Sunday, noon- 5 pm.
Jazz at the Bechtler is held first Friday of every month. Next one: March 4, 6-8 pm. “Le Jazz Hot”
Free with admission. Cash bar.