During normal times, we could find trombonist/vocalist Raymond Skalski performing traditional jazz throughout the region. Hitting trad-jazz strides with the Original River Dogs Jazz Band and trading solos with trumpeter Tim Clarke. Swinging with the likes of George Kane, Tom Kasperek, Paul Zapalowski, and Brian Bauer.
Perhaps you saw Skalski performing with big bands or joining saxophonist/clarinetist Sal Andolina in swinging traditional jazz. Jazz fans in Rochester, NY may recall seeing Ray when he traveled the I-90 to perform with pianists/bandleaders Gordon Webster, Jon Seiger, and Rod Blumenau.
You may also have heard Skalski in his appearance on the Jonathan Hughes recording Luna, released in 2018.
As we all know, these are not normal times. They have not been for nearly one year now.
What many may not know is Raymond Skalski has been a full-time art instructor at Orchard Park High School for the last 30 plus years. As a teacher and a musician, it certainly has been a hard year in both respects for Skalski.
One way he has dealt with the pandemic is to fall back on art. Particularly using art to create artistic portraits of legendary jazz figures. “It’s been a type of art therapy for me during this time without being able to do live performing with bands for about a year now,” states Skalski. Recently, he chose four historic jazz icons to depict. Those being Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, and Duke Ellington. (We include these for viewing at the end of the article.)
For the artists reading, “all the portrait renderings, except for the one of Coltrane, were done in graphite pencil (Blue Trane was mixed-medium-on-board),” according to Raymond. He does not just draw the icons, either. Sharing that “I always play recordings of the person that I am doing the portrait of during the creative process in an attempt to get some of their essence and spirit into the artwork.” Each portrait shows a deep level of artistic intricacies in the penciling and lines. Giving us a real sense of the jazz legend portrayed.
In this difficult past year, Raymond has found art to be a refuge for dealing with the stress of the pandemic. Raymond states that sharing the artworks enables him to “show how a jazz musician like myself has tried to cope with living in a COVID world.”
Art and jazz have historically been mixed, crossed paths, and make art anew. During the pandemic, Raymond Skalski reaches back into jazz history to make riveting art for all of us to enjoy.