The Colour of Jazz

By admin
Posted: 20/02/2019

In the lead up to our musical event “The Colour of Jazz”, member and writer, Chris Miller pondered the connection between art and jazz – and explored how members at Headway interacted with both….(UPDATE – he also reviewed the show for us at the end of this blog!)

There is a connection between music and unconscious parts of the brain, perhaps especially for some types of music, including jazz. This connection is especially important for people who have had a brain injury – it is about being human. Appreciating and responding to music, for instance, does not depend on the consciousness of language. Sue, a member at Headway East London, is a superb and moving singer, but has great problems remembering what she has done 10 minutes before.


In a similar way, there is a connection between art and colour that does not depend on language, physical ability or thought. At the Submit to Love Studio members have the opportunity to create art work and to play with colour, regardless of their physical and cognitive abilities. A powerful connection can be made between these two things that bypass language and perhaps conscious thought: the connection between art and music, between colour and jazz. The video of Alan immersed in sound and colour [taken during the art and jazz workshop behind The Colour of Jazz t-shirt collection] is a superb way of expressing this.

The live jazz music encouraged me to be spontaneous, less cerebral and faster, to make things up on the spur of the moment. Jean-Michel Basquiat painted while playing jazz music very loudly. Jazz is a way of making music that itself is connected to the unconscious, depending on spur of the moment invention and feeling. There is a connection between colour and jazz, and this can be a valuable association for brain injury survivors.

Recently, I joined a rehearsal at the day centre for the upcoming event. Eleven members, two volunteers, and James Compton – the fabulous music co-ordinator at Headway East London, were joined by Claude Deppa from the Grand Union Orchestra, one of the acts set to perform on Saturday. Claude led the session on the drum and trumpet, while seven of us built dynamic rhythms on drums, four of us on shakers, and one on the tambourine. During the exciting rehearsal, members with all different kinds of brain injury and abilities played lots of different jazz rhythms; together as a group, and sometimes as short solos. I could see that everyone enjoyed the session, the excitement for Saturday was palpable, and by that I mean – it was very loud!

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Headway members performing at Chats Palace

The big event: reflections

Chris also came along to the event itself, and shared a little about Headway’s performance on the evening for us…

Nearly 200 people were at this event. Barrie, a volunteer from Headway, did the introducing. The first act was the Grand Union Orchestra, led by Claude, who has been a trumpet player with Hugh Masekela. Their set was a mixture of South African and reggae influenced music. They were then joined on percussion by Headway members Pauline, Paul, Lina, Donovan, Seth, Carol, and Ziggy, a volunteer. Seth was reluctant to go up front and perform, but along with Donovan they had drum solos. Claude also encouraged Seth, despite, like me, his speech difficulties, to sing a solo. Carol, in her wheelchair, her big personality, her big red hat and playing red maracas, exchanged banter and laughter with Claude.

Headway and the GUO were the first acts to appear; following this we were honoured to have MOBO-nominated saxophonist Camilla George and her band take to the stage for a set. Closing out the night was a rousing DJ set from Lex Blondin – setting up a classic Saturday night! The Colour of Jazz was a celebration of music and creativity in East London – bringing together musicians across all sorts of genres. Thank you to all performers, organisers, raffle prize givers & attendees for making the event so special!

Our jazz-inspired t shirts are available to order from Everpress until 27th February.

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Posted: 29/06/2020

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