Sunday, 15 December 2013


Lady in Blue
Acrylic on board  12" x 24"

(dedicated to Billie Holiday)

‘For flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.’ (Chistopher Smart)

Our Lady,
Art in Heaven,
feasts on
a bed of petals,
croons over
the Angel Gabriel’s
String Orchestra,
floats on beauty’s scales.
Swollen with scent,
her skin is so pure,
alabaster smooth.
Such long stamens,
such eye lashes:
such cascading, flowering hair:

this Lily,
of the flowing Valley,
voices fragrance,

the driven snow.


from ‘The Darkness Seeping’ : The Chantry Chapel of Prior Rowland Leschman in Hexham Abbey. Poems by Keith Armstrong with drawings by Kathleen Sisterson.

Friday, 6 December 2013

STAN TRACEY (1926-2013)

Celebrated British jazz pianist Stan Tracey has died aged 86, his family have confirmed.
Tracey, who had a career spanning 70 years, was widely acknowledged as one of the greats in his field.
The Londoner was resident pianist at Ronnie Scott's jazz club from 1959-66 and made numerous recordings.
Alyn Shipton, presenter of BBC Radio 3's Jazz Record Requests, called Tracey "a towering figure in British jazz".
"He showed back in the 1960s that British themes could make a great basis for improvised jazz with his Under Milk Wood Suite, inspired by Dylan Thomas," he continued.
"His very latest work, the Flying Pig was inspired by the humour of British soldiers in the trenches in World War One, and it's a remarkable composing career, to have such acclaimed works from either end of a 50 year span.
"He'll be sorely missed," he added.
Tracey started to play the piano at the end of World War Two, shortly before being enlisted in the Royal Air Force. He had previously played in a gypsy accordion band.
Working in London after the war, he met Ronnie Scott and was encouraged into taking up jazz music as a full-time career. He joined the Ted Heath dance orchestra before taking up residency at Ronnie Scott's.

Tracey was also a prolific composer during his lengthy career. His first major work was Under Milk Wood, inspired by Welsh writer Dylan Thomas's radio play, while he penned music for big bands, eight-pieces, sextets and quartets.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


11" x 11" ink and gouche on art paper

Charlie Parker Memorial 1999
Cast bronze
18 feet in height
Dedicated on March 27, 1999, Charlie Parker Memorial was commissioned by the City of Kansas City, Missouri, with public funds provided by the city and private funds from the Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation and Tony and Marti Oppenheimer.
Charlie Parker Memorial consists of a bronze head likeness of Charlie Parker measuring 10 feet in height, mounted on 8 feet high base. On the base, etched in letters are words “BIRD LIVES.”
The Memorial is installed at the southeast corner of 17th Terrace and the Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri.
Robert Graham
Born: 08/19/1938
Died: 12/27/2008
QUOTE: “Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”(*) – CHARLIE PARKER
The words and influence of Charlie “Bird” Parker have echoed through generations of musicians. The legendary saxophonist’s electrifying sound took the jazz world by storm in the 1940s and carried on until his death in 1955. Bird’s musical ideas and instrumental prowess provided the foundation for the sound that became known as “bebop.”
In 1997, internationally renowned sculptor Robert Graham was commissioned to begin work on the Charlie “Bird” Parker Memorial sculpture. With the support of former Mayor Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II, the project gained momentum and the Charlie “Bird” Parker Plaza was dedicated on March 27, 1999.
Located adjacent to the Jay McShann Outdoor Pavilion on the north side of the American Jazz Museum, the Charlie “Bird” Parker Memorial faces east towards the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District where Parker cultivated his craft and perfected his art.
By presenting Parker’s head in isolation from his body, the sculptor sought to capture the man’s inner essence rather than his external appearance. The jazz legend’s facial features are treated in a generalized fashion so that he appears ageless. The downward tilt of the head, the closed eyes, and the rapt expression suggest that Parker is completely absorbed in music.
The artist sacrificed anatomical completeness in order to create a more visually appealing sculptural shape. Coincidentally, this cropping also transforms Parker’s profile, when seen from the south, into the rough shape of the continent of Africa.
The phrase “Bird Lives”, inscribed in the base of the sculpture, rings true today. Recordings of his performances still sound immediate and fresh, and many of his challenging compositions have become standards in jazz repertoire.
Charlie “Bird” Parker is an integral part of the Kansas City community and its Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District. He is considered to be one of the most gifted and original performers in jazz. In the same way, the Charlie “Bird” Parker Memorial sculpture is truly an original work of art, and a gift to all who have seen it.


A blurred blue evening sky,
an exhausted sun
propped up by the rooftops.
A vision
of the wracked shrieking body
of Charlie Parker
running a losing race
with his music,
the man reenacting
his bitter tortured love.

A memory,
a sense of the World,
and a nagging restlessness:
that mixture
of sorrow
and the joy
of loving,
in the cold dark air,
the sound of life’s full circle.
‘Lover Man’,
a whirlwind spins,
sings in my ears,
swirls out
to the street
where the children play
and a blind man taps
in a cul-de-sac.

The swirling soaring passions
of Parker
are ready 
to boil
again and again,
burning away
the revolving strictures
of dull monotony.

To snatch inspiration
from the lap of conformity,
Charlie has rotted
but his spirit leaps
and speaks from grooves,
renders me
airborne again.

I cry 
and float 
on the sweetness.



11" x 11" ink and gouche on art paper

Friday, 19 July 2013


 36" x 36" acrylic on canvas.

Something sad about clowns;
something thin between laughter and tears.
Pity the dignity, the love and the hate,
the twitching wire between body and soul 
and you on that stage,
drunk on rum and borrowed blues again;
unique in the balance you keep to yourself -
never quite losing it,
never quite making it;
bawling out between Magritte and Morton,
playing the droopy-drawered clown
with yourself,

do the Melly Belly,
the Ovaltine,
big brash belly laugh blues.


Keith Armstrong

Sunday, 30 June 2013



David Stephenson was a deep friend,
I met him through books.
He came from Carlisle
with that intense and craggy look.
We studied life together,
smoked Full Strength
and sipped Real Ale.
He liked his women big.
I learnt from him
to visit pubs at lunchtimes
to end up pissed in lectures
but, most of all,
to read the letters of Van Gogh,
the diaries of Franz Kafka,
to go inside 
the jazz 
of Ornette Coleman
and Cecil Taylor.
David told me that 
‘Most people are thick’
and, as a socialist of a kind,
I sometimes think he had a point.
I wonder where he is today.
Back across country I surmise,
smoking and looking at the sunrise,
with a fat woman kissing his neck,
listening to Mingus 
and the sky.


Charles Mingus

Painting is 2ft x 2ft, mixed media on board.