Avreeayl Ra Credit: courtesy of DCASE

People with synesthesia perceive things typically associated with one sense, such as sound, through one or more additional senses, such as sight, taste, smell, or touch—a B-minor chord, for instance, might register as green. A number of famous musicians, including Mary J. Blige, Pharrell Williams, and Lady Gaga, have claimed to have (or are believed to have) synesthesia. The Jazz Occurrence series, founded by artist Lewis Achenbach, offers its audience an opportunity to experience something approximating synesthesia: Achenbach invites musicians to perform while he creates artwork inspired by their sound. At Jazz Occurrence 21, multidisciplinary artist and lyricist Marvin Tate will serve as master of ceremonies and provide vocal bridges between an opening set, performed by pianist-vocalist Matt Piet and clarinetist Jeff Kimmel and entitled Suffering, and a headlining solo set by percussionist Avreeayl Ra, a former member of the Sun Ra Arkestra, that’s part of a practice he calls Healing Arts. This performance gives Ra and Achenbach a chance to collaborate in real time, an experience both men have desired for many years. Piet’s Suffering set is intended to provide the audience with a safe environment to interact with improvisation and tone and inspire the release of pent-up feelings. After Tate intervenes to set the stage, Ra hopes to soothe those raw emotions and bring the audience safely home: his forceful yet understated drumming reflects his long-standing interest in the healing arts. Achenbach customarily sketches from the audience during shows, with the performers only seeing his work after their sets are done. For this event, though, the musicians and the crowd will both be able to watch Achenbach as he creates traditional and digital art in real time. “I’m often improvising solo, like a documentarian,” he says. “But for this Jazz Occurrence, the musicians will be in the same boat as me, jumping off the cliff into the waters of experimentation—freedom, improvisation, fear, public humiliation, joy. But I’d expect that our collective experience will carry us through and provide a great abstract and lyrical storytelling event for all.” Audience members should be prepared to open themselves up to a multisensory experience that engages their emotions through their eyes and ears.   v