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Visual jazz? See it and believe it at St. Paul’s Grand Hand Gallery

Someone once observed that "writing about jazz is like dancing about architecture." No kidding. Now picture, if you will, painting about jazz or drawing it. Photographing it or interpreting it in fused glass, neon, metal, mixed media or clay.

View the results in the Grand Hand Gallery’s new show, "Visual Jazz," which opens tonight and continues through Wednesday, July 8. Featuring work by 31 artists (the Grand Hand’s largest show to date), it’s an eclectic and colorful testament to how jazz can inspire an equally creative response.

The show was curated by Twin Cities environmental artist Seitu Jones, whose work can be seen on the Catholic Charities Building in Minneapolis and along Wabasha Street in St. Paul. The recipient of awards from both the McKnight Foundation and Bush Foundation, Jones is also a participating artist in the Grand Hand show.

Others include Ta-coumba Aiken, Andrea Canter, Mary Elias, Chris Felver, Ken Green, Robert Johnson, Doug Lew, Don Pulver, Chuck Solberg and John Whiting.

Both Felver and Pulver have been featured in MinnPost previously; read more about Felver here, Pulver here. Full disclosure: John Whiting is this writer’s husband.

The Grand Hand show came about when the Twin Cities Jazz Festival moved to St. Paul after almost going under due to lack of sponsorship and support in Minneapolis. Kevin Barnes of KBEM, one of the festival’s sponsors, mentioned to gallery owner Ann Pifer that in years past the festival had presented a visual jazz show and it would be fun to do it again.

"I immediately said yes, we’d love to do that," Pifer says. "It’s a natural partnership and a great overlap — the jazz audience and our customer base."

How was Jones chosen as curator? "I’d met Seitu before," Pifer explains. "He’s so knowledgeable about jazz and its influence on him as an artist that he came to mind right away."

A call for submissions went out and responses came in from all over the country. Most of the artists chosen for the show live and work in the Twin Cities area, with a few exceptions: Tut Riddick is from Mobile, Ala., Barbara Galazzo is from Cold Spring, N.Y.; and Felver is from San Francisco.

Tonight’s opening — timed as a Jazz Festival kick-off, before tomorrow’s Jazz Night Out club crawl and Friday’s big opener in Mears Park with headliner Allen Toussaint — will also feature live music by saxophonist Irv Williams and pianist Peter Schimke. Their 2006 release, "Duo," is one of my all-time favorite CDs, and I’m hoping they’ll play a few tunes from that.

Pifer has set her sights even further into the future. "We’re hoping we can do this show again," she says. "Preparing for it has been a wonderful and fun process and has brought in a lot of great artists. I’m looking forward to next year already."

"Visual Jazz" opening reception, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight. Grand Hand Gallery, 619 Grand Ave., St. Paul (corner of Grand and Dale). Wine, hors d’oeuvres, and live music; curator Seitu Jones and several artists will be in attendance. The show runs through Wednesday, July 8.

Pamela Espeland keeps a live jazz calendar and blogs about jazz at Bebopified. She throws out the occasional jazz-related tweet.

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