When the Gibbes Museum opened in 1905, the nation celebrated what Charleston has always understood: the power of art – to inspire our imagination, heal our hurt, and nourish our souls.

Artists Inspiring Artists

Duda Lucena Trio at the Gibbes

This summer, Charleston Jazz is celebrating artists inspiring each other, so we’re thrilled to collaborate with the Gibbes Museum for our new summer series entitled The Art of Jazz. This is a chance for jazz artists to gain inspiration from visual artists who hale from different backgrounds and eras.

Last month, Brazilian guitarist Duda Lucena enchanted his audience at our first sold-out concert by presenting several original compositions inspired by the Mark Catesby exhibition on view at the Museum. After the performance, Lucena said, “I truly enjoyed being part of that project. I think the partnership with the Gibbes Museum was a great idea, and it should not stop there. Collaboration between different art forms brings excitement and curiosity to the audience and always a new and special meaning for the artists involved on the project. Thank you!”

This month, on July 19, we’re excited to present the inspiration of Demetrius Doctor, a Charleston-born graduate of the College of Charleston with dexterity on piano that impresses even the most accomplished musicians.

As a case in point, last March, Demetrius was the pianist at the Charleston Jazz Orchestra’s Tribute to Nat King Cole featuring Freddy Cole. Upon listening to Demetrius play, Freddy said, “I really like how that young man plays piano. He has a nice soft touch on the keys.” Which is a noteworthy compliment from a globally celebrated jazz pianist and brother to the famous Nat.

Demetrius Doctor
Demetrius Doctor

To give you some insight into Demetrius’ inspiration, I spent some time interviewing him about his background and why he chose the particular songs for his upcoming concert at the Gibbes.

Mary Beth Natarajan: How old were you when you started playing piano?

Demetrius Doctor: I started playing piano at the age of 5. I wanted a piano so my parents gave me a Casio and I would play it for hours. My cousin, LaVonta Green—who’ll play bass during the performance—is like an older brother to me. He played piano at the time, and because he played piano, I wanted to play piano. So, you could say he was my inspiration. My family sang in church. I’m definitely not a singer but it influenced me musically.

MBN: What were your other musical influences?

DD: Growing up in the South, the Gullah/Geechie sound and culture influenced me greatly. It grew out of slavery and combined African rhythms with European music. It influences the way I write and construct music today.

MBN: When it comes to performing and arranging, what do you enjoy most?

DD: I like to do both equally. I love performing and I really enjoy being part of a community of musicians. I also love putting thoughts into creating something that others can have fun with.

MBN: Tell us a little about the works of art you selected as the inspiration for your performance on July 19.

Mary Jackson by Mary Whyte

Mary Jackson, 2002, by Mary Whyte (American, b. 1953)
Mary Jackson, 2002, by Mary Whyte (American, b. 1953); watercolor on paper; Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of Cathy and Ben Marino; 2016.005

This painting shows a large unfinished sweetgrass basket. The fact that it was something left undone spoke to me. The song I’ve composed will be called “The Weaver” and it includes a Gullah beat that will be a tribute to Mary Jackson.

Accident by Jacob Lawrence

Accident, 1946, by Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917-2000)
Accident, 1946, by Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917–2000); gouache on board; Gibbes Museum of Art, Museum purchase with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts Living Artist Fund; 1974.001

This is a work that speaks to social injustice and civil rights. It pictures a lot of people looking down at what appears to be an accident. My piece will also be entitled “Accident.”

No ‘Count Boys, by Henry Botkin

No 'Count Boys, ca. 1935, by Henry Botkin (American, 1896 - 1983)
No ‘Count Boys, ca. 1935, by Henry Botkin (American, 1896–1983); oil on canvas; Gibbes Museum of Art, Museum purchase; 1988.011.0001

Interestingly, Henry Botkin was a cousin of George Gershwin. He came down to Charleston and stayed with Gershwin when he wrote Porgy and Bess. It made me wonder, what was Henry was doing while George wrote Porgy and Bess? This work of art is about two young black boys on the street, so it appears that Henry was walking around painting the things he saw. My piece will be an arrangement of “Summertime” composed by George Gershwin.

Jenkins Band (No. 2), by Alfred Hutty

Jenkins Band (No. 2), 1933, by Alfred Hutty (American, 1877-1954)
Jenkins Band (No. 2), 1933, by Alfred Hutty (American, 1877–1954); drypoint on paper; Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Alfred Hutty; 1955.007.0024

We all know the history of the Jenkins Orphanage Band and how important they were to jazz in Charleston and around the world. I will play my arrangement of “Jesus is the Best Thing”—a song by Rev. James Cleveland.

Demetrius will perform these songs and others with his band members, LaVonta Green on Bass, and David Patterson on Drums, on Wednesday, July 19 from 6–7pm at the Gibbes Museum as part of the three-part summer concert series, The Art of Jazz, hosted by Charleston Jazz and the Gibbes Museum.

Mary Beth Natarajan, executive director, Charleston Jazz, and guest blogger

Purchase tickets to the upcoming performance of the Demetrius Doctor Trio on July 19 here.

The trio of Lewis/Gregory/Wiltrout will perform the third and final concert of the series on August 16. Purchase tickets for Lewis/Gregory/Wiltrout here.

Learn more about Charleston Jazz.

Top image: Duda Lucena Trio performs music inspired by Mark Catesby’s watercolors on view at the Gibbes Museum. Photo MCG Photography

Published July 7, 2017

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