Tag Archives: jazz

Underground Gallery Sells 30K in Excavated Art in One Night

In the late summer of 2013, year of the XTRACT, the sons of Tristan Meinecke partnered with The Underground Multiplex (TUGM) to resurrect the story of their iconic rebel parents.  TUGM is one of the Shy City’s most ardent supporters of local underground art, and the art of patriarch Tristan Meinecke was as underground as it gets- literally!

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Tristan Meinecke in his home studio, late 50s. Location of pictured art pieces still unknown.

The career of Chicago’s forgotten lunatic genius spanned over five decades and included successful forays into nearly every art medium available.  His mastery was well-known by those that knew of him, but mental illness and his commitment to his family led him to eschew the art world entirely.  He never stopped working, and after 88 years of pushing every boundary he ever encountered, Tristan passed in 2004.  Everything he ever made that wasn’t sold (about 1/3 of his total canon) was found in the basement of the building inherited by his sons, Brad and Scott.

VIDEO – First inspection of the Meinecke basement by TUGM co-founder Joseph R. Lewis

Their mother, Lorraine ‘Angel’ Casey was a television pioneer.  She was amongst the first wave of producers and performers to migrate to the nascent medium from radio.  At the height of Chicago radio’s popularity in the the forties, she was the Queen- literally!   Queen of Chicago Radio 1946!  She performed in over a thousand live tapings that year!

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Controversial bi-racial promo pic for Angel Casey’s “The Play House”

She produced and performed in the very successful “Play House” kids show in the mid-fifties and received death threats for demanding that bi-racial promotional material be developed to include the African-American audience in her viewership.   Just as Tristan withdrew from the art scene, Angel eventually withdrew from showbiz to focus on family.  They were married for more than fifty years.   Memorabilia and artifacts from Angel Casey’s reign as a Chicago media pioneer were discovered alongside the art of her husband…down in the basement.

The task of excavating the basement was immense.  Hundreds of pieces of art and records outlining the full careers of two iconoclastic Chicago rebels were packed into every crevice of this dark, dirty cave in West Rogers Park.   Together TUGM and the Meinecke sons designed a plan to unearth everything and coordinate the excavation with a focused transmedia promotional campaign leading up to an unprecedented DIY gallery opening in the very same basement and adjoining building where the discovery was made.  The Meinecke’s would build and manage the gallery, and TUGM would build and manage the media.

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On Friday, February 8th, 2014, year of the ELEVATION, the gallery opened.  It will stay open for a couple more weeks.  You should check it out.  XOX

READ MORE About the Gallery Opening in THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Watch the TUGM Excavation Videos
Read the full TUGM transmedia story
Learn more about the history of Tristan Meinecke’s art
See pictures from the career of Angel Casey

GALLERY OPENING PICTURES BELOW

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The Jazz Castle of Tristan Meinecke

by Joseph R. Lewis

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“Meinecke remains one of the monumental artistic secrets of Chicago, a man whose contribution remains to be adequately understood and evaluated.”
John Corbett,  Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“If they played jazz in Chicago, they came to my parents’ pool parties.” – Brad Meinecke, son of Tristan

When Tristan Meinecke arrived in Chicago back in the forties he fell in swiftly with the jazz swingers.  Tristan had already taught himself clarinet and alto sax and he worked the jazz dive circuit successfully here in this Windy City for many years.  He played in the first integrated jazz trio to hit the Northside clubs.  He hailed King Oliver and the entire royal court of jazz pioneers that forever changed the sound of music back in the 1920s from their impoverished neighborhoods on the Southside.

In an age of segregation and McCarthyism,  Tristan was an aggressive anti-racist. He threw more than a few literal fists into the figurative face of prejudice.

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In the fifties Tristan rose to great prominence as one of the cities most exciting and progressive visual artists.  He clashed ideologically and physically with the art world as only a true rebel artist would.  His low tolerance for BS was compounded by his disdain for self-inflation and this, as you can imagine, put him at odds with many of his contemporaries and curators.  Eventually he eschewed the whole dang scene and established a home for he and his family free from the confines and servitude of any traditional genre or lifestyle.

He built his castle on Cleveland Street.

tris_angel_60s_pool_sized_300His wife, Angel, a famous Chicago starlet from the earliest days of television, counted amongst her good friends the likes of Lil Hardin, wife to Louis Armstrong and a legendary piano player in her own right.

Lil played with King Oliver, too.  She, along with others from that famous musical round table could often be seen lounging at Tristan and Angel’s 10-year pool party, which they hosted from ’61 to ’70 at their double-lot dual-building property at 2022 N Cleveland.

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From that address, this Chicago hipster power couple entertained a celebrity guest roster rivaling that of the Playboy Mansion.  He taught art classes and sold his own work directly from his own home, bypassing museums and galleries completely.

baby_dodds_sized_315Instruments abound, Tristan designed the acoustics of the property himself, to optimize the allure of the music from street, drawing the neighborhood ever-towards him.

Here’s a Meinecke unfired bust of Baby Dodds, jazz drummin’ pioneer.  Tris and Baby were good friends.  Baby sat for the bust->

2B Continued…

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

Chicago’s Forgotten Lunatic Genius

by Joseph R. Lewis

Brad Meinecke, son of Tristan

Last summer I was directing the Youth Media program at Chicago Filmmakers.  One of my students had been signed up for my class by his parents and clearly had no direct interest in media production.  He liked Judo.  He was a champion butt-kicker.

wrapped woman 6But he held his own amongst a throng of supreme media-geeks and even verbally sparred with his sassiest female classmates to great success.  He was strong and eloquent and charming just like his father, as I soon came to discover.

His dad , Brad, would pick him up from camp occasionally.  He was a brick building of a man- the kind that could derail a train.  Sharp eyes, sand-paper stubble, with an aggressive gift for gab.  He told great stories like a great storyteller.  He knew when to be loud and when to whisper. As is true of most natives to this Midwest Metropolis, he loved talking about Chicago.

One day near the end of the summer I was sharing with Brad my adventures in urban archaeology.  I told him of the discovery of The Lost Marionettes and our impending rescue mission.  He leaned back and laid a big hairy eyeball on me.

Stylized_Blonde“I should tell you about my father.”

“Who’s your father?”

“My father came this close-“ Brad raised his hand and shoved it in my face, his thumb and finger pressed together tightly, “to being an internationally famous artist.  He’s one of the Chicago Greats…but nobody remembers him anymore…”

“Why not?”

“Because he was a genius…and a lunatic.”  He stared at me for a moment calmly, knowingly.  “His name was Tristan Meinecke.”

I expected a torrent of abusive tales and rueful recollections.  Instead, what I’ve been shown in these past few months is an ever-deepening picture of adventure, love, family, and rebellion unlike any that I’ve ever seen.    It’s like good jazz thumping across six decades in rhythm with the powerful heartbeat of our native city.

Tristan Meinecke. b. 1916 d. 2004

Where to begin?  Tristan the infant savant? Tristan the self-taught jazz musician?  Tristan the two-fisted?  Tristan the architect?  The father?  The husband?  The author?  The anti-racist?  The surrealist?  The manic depressive?  The composer?  The bulldog?

Only one thing is apparent- He lived the kind of life that can only be lived here, in this crossroads city called Chicago.
2B Continued…HERE
XOX

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

Chicago Jazz Trio, Nonpronto, Releases Their First EP and It’s Pretty Grand

Nonpronto (L to R): Dan Collins, Piano/Vocals; Josh Murtha, Bass; Luke Angle, drums.

Nonpronto (L to R): Dan Collins, Piano/Vocals; Josh Murtha, Bass; Luke Angle, drums.

The marvelous new Chicago jazz trio Nonpronto has just released their new 5 track self-titled EP. You can head on over to their Bandcamp site to give a listen and name your price. Better yet, support them by purchasing the CD on their Bigcartel store.

You can hear an earlier version of “Sweet Times Run” as part of this podcast of “Mediatrocities”. I hope to be able to get an interview with the trio for a future show.

Local Talent to Look For: Nonpronto

Nonpronto: (l.to r.) Dan Collins, piano/vocals; Josh Murtha, bass; Luke Angle, drums

Nonpronto: (l.to r.) Dan Collins, piano/vocals; Josh Murtha, bass; Luke Angle, drums

A new jazz trio Nonpronto will be performing their first gig at Tonic Room in Chicago. Comprised of Josh Murtha (bass), Luke Angle (drums) and Dan Collins (piano/vocals), they lay down some good solid grooves.

The Brain Kitchen was proud to have two of the trio, Josh and Luke, perform there last year.  They also performed as part of Captain Famous and the Dead Celebz, leading off a great night of entertainment topped off by the Chicago theatrical premiere of Scumbabies.

Give a listen to these guys on their website and then head over to Tonic Room for their debut public performance. You’ll dig them like I do.

“Sweet Times Run”:

 

Jazz Night at The Underground Multiplex Studios

Lindon and Mike of Prism jammin’.

So while many of you faced the wrath of the the weather gods during Lollapalooza, The Underground Multiplex hosted two jazz acts in our Brain Kitchen Theater: Fundamental and Prism. These are some amazingly talented guys and we were privileged to have them perform in our great intimate attic setting. Sorry about the quality of the photos. Fundamental has a CD available for purchase here.

Prism: Austin on piano, Lindon on guitar, Mike on bass

Prism: Mike on bass, Luke on drums, Spencer on sax

We’ll be having more live events like these–film screenings, live music, live podcasts, etc. Stay tuned!