Triptych: A Story of Artwork Told by Jazz

As much as I would like to claim credit for composing every note that you hear in this piece, I cannot. Usually, this is the case in the jazz composition, because the musical genre of jazz is based on the concept of improvisation–the performers, not just the composer, write the music you hear in real time.

However, in this piece, Triptych, the performers are even more so in the driver’s seat. I composed Triptych with the intent of creating a frame for my colleagues in a jazz quintet to improvise based on three artworks. I provide a sheet of music with guidelines to keep the group together and give us some common ground, but ultimately the piece is meant to be a musical interpretation of visual art.

You will hear portrayals of the following three artworks represented by three distinct musical movements:

Walking on Water – photograph by Isabella Fanucci

Tick Tock – photograph by Raja Akula

Inferno – sketch by Alicia Chen

Listen for the transition from Walking on Water to Tick Tock when the drum set takes over, emulating the sounds of a watch ticking. You’ll also hear the transition to Inferno when the saxophone belts out a devilish melody, distorting every note.

When composing Triptych, I came across this question: When a musician reads sheet music and plays it, is this not also a musical interpretation of visual art? Is there really a difference between interpreting brush strokes, photographs, or sketches versus treble clefs, eighth notes, and trills?

Austin Ali – trumpet

Ben Newsome – tenor saxophone

Cameron Riggs – piano

Chris Loveland – bass

Zach Kursman – drums



All the artworks can be found online in Apricity Magazine 

%d bloggers like this: