Music based on visual art is nothing new (many know of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition
if nothing else), but can be a mixed bag in terms of quality. Though both art forms can show improvisation and structure, musicians have to walk a fine line: too literal in their transcription of color and strength and they risk making terrible music; too free with the aesthetics of their own musical ideas and they risk ignoring the visual starting point. Drummer and bandleader Matt Jorgensen manages, while working from the paintings of his father-in-law, Dale Chisman, to walk that line carefully and perfectly, however. Instead of creating simplistic program music to represent the subjects of Chisman's paintings, Jorgensen tends to create with the mood of the painting in mind instead, as well as a hearty enjoyment of improvisation, taking a cue from the constant reworking apparent in the brushstrokes, with layered sounds mimicking layered color ideas. The music that results is at times deep and groove-laden (especially when featuring the power of guitarist Corey Christiansen) and at times philosophical. A piece like "Colorado" takes something of a melancholy, sparse aesthetic in the realm of Piazzolla's compositions. "Primal Scrip" takes on just a bit of a Western vibe à la Morricone (before moving into a bit of electric jazz fusion). "Dialogue 2008" (co-written by trumpeter par excellence Thomas Marriott) ends up as a straightforward bop-era stomp between Marriott and saxophonist Mark Taylor. Without becoming rote and without going deep beyond its inspirational subject matter, Tattooed by Passion
simultaneously manages to pay respect to the paintings it was built from and independently stand as an excellent recording.