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A Free-Improv on Beer, Music and Arts

Jazz Hops

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This issue centers on two great American pastimes that are about as Creative Loafing as it gets: drinking local beer and experiencing local art. In our annual special section on beer, we offer up a little bit of both by spotlighting several new craft beer breweries and taprooms.

"Brewing is comprised of lots of science, which we love, but it is also art in the truest sense of the word," Ben Dolphens tells us. He's one of three co-owners of the forthcoming Divine Barrel Brewing, which opens early next year, and says NoDa was the obvious choice for the business because of the neighborhood's association with art. "We just felt it was the perfect fit for who we are and what we're trying to do."

Dolphens is not the only new brewmeister in Charlotte who emphasizes the art in the craft of brewing a great mug of suds. So does Dan Hyde, who chose the arty South End neighborhood for his new establishments, Hyde Brewing and The Suffolk Punch.

"I started home-brewing a little over 10 years ago, immersing myself in the art, science and nuances of the craft," Hyde tells us.

Art, science and nuance. Those three things certainly apply to free-improvised jazz, something we don't get enough of in Charlotte's music venues. For nearly 15 years, Brent Bagwell has been preaching the joys and ecstasy of free jazz via his saxophone, the same instrument that the late North Carolina-born jazz legend John Coltrane magically transformed into sounds that resemble, by turns, a gospel singer, a cantor's incantation, and a muezzin's call to prayer.

Bagwell, who moved to Charlotte from New York City in the early 2000s, has performed with the most out jazz and avant-garde ensembles in town, as well as the most adventurous experimental rock bands, including Project Bluebird, Tenspeed, Pyramid and his current free-jazz duo Ghost Trees. And now, Bagwell has put together a new jazz-and-poetry night with his wife Amy, a local poet and visual artist. The series is slated to run the first three Fridays of October at Petra's in Plaza Midwood.

I sat down with Bagwell to talk about the series, which he's dubbed the Antidote — as in, an antidote to tepid music and arts — for this week's music feature. Bagwell, who helped launch the McColl Center's terrific "New Frequencies" series a few years ago (which is still going), appreciates local musicians and artists who work hard in Charlotte to make livings from their crafts, but he says he too often comes away from nightclub performances unsatiated.

"I just feel like, in general, when I go places to see jazz, it's just really toothless," he tells me in the piece.

Bagwell's remedy is the Antidote, which his wife says brings the arts of jazz and poetry back to the streets, where they belong.

"For me, poetry is blood and guts and real," Amy Bagwell tells me. "It's a people's expression that's been somehow criminally made exclusive for the elite and the academic."

The music section isn't the only place in this week's issue where you'll hear Amy Bagwell proselytizing about art for the people.

Staff writer Pat Moran's piece on Wet Paint, the newest event from the Goodyear Arts program, includes viewpoints from the program's founders, one of whom is . . . Amy Bagwell. Wet Paint is Goodyear's first happening in its new digs at Camp North End, and Bagwell tells Moran that she's excited about it.

"All of the art has been created this year, and some of it has been created and finished just for this show," Bagwell says, explaining that Goodyear, which was launched to help street-level artists make a living from their art by gaining more access to local art lovers, has risen above the status of a mere "program" and is now a strong and vital Charlottte arts organization.

"We're not an experiment anymore," Bagwell says. "We believe artists should be paid for their work. It's not a ton of money, but [enough so that] artists can use it to buy supplies, or to take time off from their jobs to produce art."

Which brings us back to beer.

If beer is part of the fuel that inspires an artist's work — and I should point out that this certainly is not the case for all artists — then they, of course, would want to be able to afford to support the local craftspeople who brew the stuff.

Art, science and nuance — it all comes full circle, and Creative Loafing is here to tie all those parts together. So grab a mug and a book of poetry, sit down in your art room, put on some Ghost Trees, and read this week's issue cover to cover. The stories herein just may inspire you to create.

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