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Trumpet & Travel #4 - Brian Swartz meets painter John Nolan in Dublin.

In this edition of Trumpet & Travel, I had the pleasure of traveling from London, England to Dublin, Ireland to finally meet painter John Nolan in person.

Warning: This is a very charming story.

Years ago, I would say maybe around the turn of the 21st century, I had bought a couple of inexpensive paintings at an antique shop in Larchmont Village near Hollywood, CA. They weren't anything terribly special. One was a charming little watercolor of a cafe scene in Paris that was done just after WWII, and I had also bought a pair of wood cut prints that seemed to be Mexican or Aztec in style.

It had become a hobby of mine to research the origin of the paintings on the internet because I couldn't read the artists' signatures. While doing this research I discovered an entire network of art from all over the world that existed on the internet and I began to pick out artists that struck me or whose art stood out. One of those artists was John Nolan.

John Nolan's painting style is distinct. It is a unique mix of pop, abstract, surrealist and impressionist using bright colors which grab the eye and bring you into the details. It's quite clear that he is a master craftsman as well as being very prolific.

Well, until 2004 or '05, my appreciation of John's art was just private. And then there was When MySpace came along, artists and fans began connecting online like never before. I can remember becoming fans of actors like Bill Murray and it seemed like you were actually connecting with them. Sometimes they were fake accounts or fan pages, but sometimes they weren't.

So, I found John Nolan on MySpace, we connected and I began corresponding with him. Right away, it seemed like we had a mutual appreciation for the art that the other created. MySpace was one of the first websites where artists could upload their music or their art and get heard or seen by anyone, anywhere in the world. John would post his latest paintings and I would post my jazz recordings. John then began posting pieces of art that he said he had painted while listening to my music. I was deeply moved by this.

In 2006, I had recorded a new CD that was due to be released in the summer and I was looking for a unique painting to use as the cover art. I sent a note to John Nolan and asked if I could use one of his paintings for the cover of my CD. Without hesitation, John sent me high resolution photos of about 150 or his paintings and said I could choose any that I wished.

I poured over the paintings and chose (with the input of my lovely mother, Sunny) "Crescendo."

"Crescendo" by John Nolan

"Crescendo" seemed to embody everything that I wanted for the cover of my CD; it was immediately appealing, colors that jump out at you, it carried elements of the theme of the recording project (a recurring 3 object theme), it was an abstract piece and it was distinctly John Nolan. Here's John Nolan's "Crescendo" on the cover of my 2006 CD, "Three."

"Three" Brian Swartz Trio

John and I remained friends, eventually Facebook took over where MySpace started, and we kept in touch more and more over the years. As my career and reputation as a trumpet player grew, I began to travel more and more. I saw Indonesia, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, The Czech Republic, Turkey, Austria, Holland and much more of the USA. But it wasn't until the summer or 2017, when I would go to London with John Beasley's Monk'estra, that I would finally get the chance to go to Dublin to meet John Nolan in person.

When I was invited by John Beasley to play with the Monk'estra to the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam and then Ronnie Scott's in London, my first thought was, "How far is London from Dublin?" I discovered that it was just a 1 hour flight from London to Dublin and only cost about $100! So I sent a note via Facebook to John Nolan to see about arranging a visit and his response was, "Brilliant! You can stay here in the guest bedroom in my house. Best news of the year!"

So, I made all of the arrangements to change my return flight to the US from London to Dublin and then booked a flight for July 11th between London and Dublin to go and meet my fellow artist and longtime internet friend. This was a real departure for me because before this trip, all of my traveling had been either for business or to visit family. I had never really just traveled, alone, on a whim for the sake of adventure. And certainly never with such uncertainty of where I was going and never having met the people with whom I would be staying. But I was really looking forward to it.

So, finally July 11th came and I was leaving John Beasley and the comfort of my fellow bandmates in the Monk'estra to venture off on my own to Dublin, Ireland. Since I was traveling locally and separately from the group, I was leaving out of London's City Airport instead of Heathrow. A wonderful Dutch saxophonist named Joris Roelofs who had played with the Monk'estra at North Sea and Ronnie Scott's shared a cab with me to the airport because he was flying back to Amsterdam.


I arrived at the Dublin airport, greeted with hugs by John Nolan and his wife Miriam, as if I were a long lost relative who had left home to seek fortune and fame and was finally coming back home. This may be more on the mark than I had believed for most of my life, because a few years ago my older brother Larry had sent his DNA in to 23 And Me for analysis and it came back saying that we were mostly Northern European. So for all intents and purposes, I was coming home....and it felt that way.

I got into Dublin about midday and the Nolan's made me feel right at home. Unfortunately, I had come down with a slight fever and a cough on my way from London to Dublin, so I was feeling a little under the weather. Well, Miriam immediately sat me down in their kitchen, made me some tea and began nursing me back to health.

After a short travel nap, we went out to see some of the sights of Dublin. Mostly this first day, we went to the port to see the long, flat beaches and the sand dunes with tall sea grass. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

In the next edition of Trumpet & Travel, I'll pick up where I left off here and show you the next day of sightseeing with the Nolan's in beautiful Dublin, Ireland.

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