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music feature1Two artists pen a multimedia ‘love letter’ to Santa Cruz

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. And all music fans know that a great tune can convey sentiments words could never express. In that spirit, a pair of artists are joining together to create a wordless ode to the place they each love so much.

“Santa Cruz in Song and Image” is the title of the multimedia project, which Los Gatos guitarist Brian Gore and Marin painter Bill Russell are set to present at Kuumbwa Jazz on Thursday, Sept. 6.

Though they both live outside the city, the two men have nonetheless come to embrace the beaches, forests and unique culture of this waterfront town and see it as a home away from home. “The reason the album emerged was a rekindling of what I love about Santa Cruz going back from when I was a kid,” explains Gore, who first came up with the concept to write a suite of songs to be accompanied by painted images of the locales that inspired those compositions.

The idea came to him over a series of walks he took with his young son to some of the local spots that were most important to him as a child. Santa Cruz is the place where Gore first saw the ocean. He moved to the area to live with relatives when his mother fell ill. “Looking back, Santa Cruz has always been a place that’s helped me,” he says. “It’s been a kind of refuge. I’ve been drawn back to the solace I felt that day [I saw the ocean], and I’ll never forget it.”

Gore wanted to capture these complex emotions in his project. So, with his 6-year-old son, Tristan, in tow, he started revisiting places like Felton Covered Bridge, the San Lorenzo River’s “Garden of Eden,” Natural Bridges, Lexington Reservoir and Bear Creek Road.

The scenery informed Gore’s instrumental guitar compositions, which meld the musical styles of classical, jazz and a bit of freewheeling American primitive. He wrote 10 songs, each of them inspired by a specific location—and that’s where Russell comes in.

music feature2The Canadian-born painter has known Gore for more than 20 years, and was the obvious choice when it came to finding someone to illustrate the scenes that Gore has interpreted through music.

Russell says that he and Gore work well together not only because they have been friends for two decades, but also because they have a similar passion for storytelling, even if they like to tell stories in different ways.

While Gore has been called a “poet of the guitar,” Russell takes a more scientific approach to his art. “I took on the Santa Cruz project like it was a kind of visual journalism,” Russell says, recounting how he made many weekend trips to the area, asking questions of the locals and walking the same trails Gore had. “It was like I was a reporter wanting to uncover a story.”

That story will be told at Kuumbwa Jazz. If all goes according to plan, Gore will perform on stage, while a slide show of paintings, photographs and video plays on a screen behind him. Russell may even create illustrations live—projecting his work on the screen as he creates it on his iPad.

Those who can’t make it to the show can purchase a digital e-book version of their “love letter to Santa Cruz”—complete with Russell’s playful watercolor renderings and the accompanying songs—on iTunes, or view the project by searching for “Santa Cruz in Song and Image” on YouTube. 

“Santa Cruz in Song and Image” will debut at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $18/adv, $21/door. 427-2227.

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