Bemsha Swing in Denver: a solo exhibition by Yoshitomo Saito

Ironton Gallery (3636 Chestnut Pl. Denver in RiNo)

July 7 - August 18, 2017

  • Public Reception with the artist on first Friday July 7th from 6-10pm
  • Open hours: weekdays from 10am-3pm
yoshiBeehive Cart 2014

Yoshitomo Saito - photo by Ken Hamel/


This is the very final serious art exhibit at Ironton Gallery before the new owners start to change the building for their distillery business. Many locally unseen pieces are included. Hope you can come take a look at this contemporary bronze sculpture show. Thanks --Yoshitomo Saito

Artist Statement:

“Bemsha Swing is a jazz standard co-written by Thelonious Monk and Denzil Best. The tune is 16 bars in the form of AABA. It is in 4/4 meter but is often played with a 2-feel.[1] The melody consists of a motif around a descending C Spanish phrygian scale (the A section) and a chromatic sequencing of the same motif a fourth higher on an F Spanish phrygian scale (the B section). The chordal movement by contrast suggests a C Major tonality rather than C Spanish phrygian, its relative minor f (melodic or harmonic), or its relative Major, A♭ Major. However, the song ends on a D♭maj7 (#11) rather than a C chord, a displacement which is characteristic of Monk compositions.“ (From Wikipedia)

Because of my inability to comprehend this wikipedia explanation for my favorite Bemsha Swing, I had a moment of a brain twister when I tried to read it and almost lost confidence in my understanding of Thelonious Monk music. However, from my long time listening experience, I believe the poetic displacement that occurs in Bemsha Swing and other Monk’s tunes, is easily accessible with their organic funky groove and evocative sound-vision.

Although I respect many genre specific professional perspectives such as above, I prefer to dwell in the casual secret place of human imagination. First of all, you’ve got to know the Monk’s famous bear-dance to understand the true vibe, and like this jazzman I want to create a kind of expressive conduit with earthy wit plus some slicing of unknowable gestures in my sculpture.

It is my bear-dance with melody and rhythm, on subconscious level, are blended into the work with recognizable textures of nature fragments and oddities. Those motifs from the multiple memories are metaphor for the array of clumsiness found in my own process of seeking the real.

Life swings like a pendulum in between good and bad sometimes quite drastically, and the push that creates momentum for swinging often comes from outside. But as long as our secret place can provide the very key for discernment, we would thrive just fine.

I do not know about the etymological adjacency of this unique word “Bemsha”. But it just occurs to me to think that it represents for the reimagining of life to my own personal interpretation. Thank you. --Yoshitomo Saito

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