"Chepaitis is a national treasure who has yet to be recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, because a category encompassing the gonzo, musically omniverous brilliance, and beatific, introspective sensitivity of the man has yet to be invented." -Kitty Montgomery

Matisse Project

Matisse, Matisse cutouts, jazz violin,piano,Chris Bakriges,Stanley Chepaitis

Teaching the Eye to Hear: Musical Reflections on Matisse’s Jazz Series

In 1941 the artist Henri Matisse found himself ill, bedridden, and unable to pick up a paintbrush. He found, however, that he could maneuver scissors through prepared sheets of brightly colored paper. He referred to this technique as “painting with scissors.” Among his first adventures with paper cutouts was a book called Jazz, which Matisse prepared in 1942 and published in 1947. The book containing twenty color plates as well as his written thoughts was initially only printed in a hundred copies. Matisse viewed jazz as a “chromatic and rhythmic improvisation.” The title Jazz evoked for Matisse the idea of a structure of rhythm and repetition broken by the unexpected action of improvisations. He wrote, “There are wonderful things in real jazz, the talent for improvisation, the liveliness, the being at one with the audience.”
Both the text and the cut outs inspired the musicians to make what they refer to as musical reflections on Matisse’s work. Matisse used the energy of a still young musical idiom called jazz in enticing the art world to “teach the eye to hear.”


Statement by Stanley Chepaitis

In February of 2014, I received a call out the blue from jazz pianist Chris Bakriges. I had heard of Chris as an extremely gifted jazz musician and also for  his groundbreaking forays into world music with the Oikos Ensemble and his work in India.

Chris asked me to join him in developing performances of his compositions based on the Matisse book of paper cuts which is called "Jazz". Needless to say, I accepted. As we worked on fleshing out his conceptions through joint improvisations I was completely seduced by the beauty of Chris' music, and by the awesome creativity of Henri Matisse. I was also impressed by the fact that, while the music is jazz based and appeals to the sensibilities of the jazz musician, it also reaches into more wide ranging , even universal territory.

Now that we have done several live performances, these impressions have held up. They have also been confirmed by audience reaction. We have received many audience comments to the effect that " I'm not really a jazz fan, but I loved your music". Audiences also enjoyed viewing the art works in projection while hearing the music. You can read some of the comments by audience and presenters below. You can also hear some of the compositions while viewing the artworks they reflect by accessing those pages on the links below.

We feel that the Matisse Project music has demonstrated strong potential to reach beyond the boundaries of the jazz world to bring in new fans. 


Statement by Christopher Bakriges

In 2009 I began composing music to the first ten scissor cuts collectively called Jazz; the entire collection of twenty compositions was completed in 2012. Words cannot adequately express the impact of my encounter with Henri Matisse’s book. It was as if I was automatically writing music to each of the works while traveling between Vermont and New York City. In fact, it was the first time I had written music away from the piano. I was so struck by Matisse’s collection and the circumstances surrounding their evolution that I proceeded to create lecture and performance programming around the topics of American jazz and the city of Paris. This work lent itself to my academic writing on the globalization of jazz, musical modernism, and avant-garde movements and moments in history.

The discoveries I have made of my own compositional “voice” due to the inspiration derived from Henri Matisse’s Jazz series have been astounding. His creative process, transforming the raw materials of paint, paper, and scissors, is something to marvel over. The fact that Matisse’s Jazz series was conceived when he was ill, bedridden, and amidst the German occupation is nothing short of a triumph. 


Press and presenter reactions to the Matisse Project Music

I was almost breathless as I listened to the works, sometimes melodious, other times, cutting edge like the blades of scissors. I'm a poet, not an expert in music, and I'd never met Chris before the performance. But to this day, I carry the music with me, still not believing the work was improvisational.

-Carol Dine, Author, Van Gogh in Poems



Teaching the Eye to Hear: Musical Reflections on Matisse's Jazz was absolutely spellbinding. The proceeds will help us match a challenge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Online Opportunity Grant to assist the Library in upgrading their public access computers. The main goal of the grant is to help libraries and their communities build long-term capacity for supporting free computer and Internet access in public libraries. It was an unforgettable evening and a high point in the Library's year."

Jerry Carbone, Director, Brook Memorial Library, Brattleboro, VT


The Matisse Project was a great concert. The music was magical and the interplay between Chris and Stanley was astounding. The program was sold out and a great success. People loved it and were riveted. Projecting the works while the music was being performed was a hit! The Matisse Jazz Project will stay with us for a long time to come.

Linda Magill, Ph.D., cellist and curator, Jazz in Jefferson Series, Jefferson, NY


Thank you for your beautiful concert. What a magical way to experience the resonant vision of Matisse. I was transported by the sound of your pieces. The voice of your playing made a world so imaginative emotional and wise! Inspired!

Malcolm Dalglish, Composer, Ooolitic Music, Bloomington, IN


The Matisse compositions are keepers in jazz literature.

Karen A. Leuders, Atty., walkOver Concert Room, Bristol, VT


The museum has received numerous compliments regarding your artistic excellence and interpretations of Matisse’s Jazz series, including several remarks from community members saying this was their favorite program the museum has ever presented. Teaching the Eye to Hear: Reflections on Matisse’s Jazz is truly a treasure, and it was terrific to hear the images brought to life through your music. Your ability to compose, perform, and communicate your process greatly enhanced our program and conveyed a very deep understanding and reflection on Matisse’s work.

Ann K. Fields, Curatorial & Educational Programs Coordinator, Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, IN


Photos for print, Bios, and a poster template for Matisse Project Concerts are available on the "For Presenters" Page

Matisse Calendar

Friday, April 8, 2016
Coventry Inn, Indiana, PA

Chris Bakriges and Stanley Chepaitis play music from the Matisse Jazz series. Music starts at 9 PM . 


Thursday, April 7, 2016
Club Cafe Pittsburgh

Violinist Stanley Chepaitis, pianist Chris Bakriges, Guitarist John Stowell, and Bassist Jeff Grubbs, perform original works and standards, including music from the Matisse Project.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016
DeCicco Room Cogswell Hall, IUP

Jazz Compositions for Violin and Piano by Christopher Bakriges. Chris and Stanley perform the works live while Matisse's iconic images are displayed.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
John F. Kennedy Auditorium at St Francis University, Loretto, PA

Matisse inspired Jazz for violin and piano by composer, Christopher Bakriges. The Concert begins at 7:30 PM in St Francis University's JFK center auditorium.

Sunday, June 28, 2015
Bop Stop at The Music Settlement, Cleveland, OH

Jazz and Matisse at the Bop Stop 2920 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland , OH  with Paul Samuels, Drums, Glenn Holmes, Bass, Stanley Chepaitis, Violin, and Chris Bakriges, Piano

7-9:30 PM Sunday June 28


Saturday, June 27, 2015
Amistad Chapel Cleveland, OH

Matisse Project Performance for the Jazz Vespers Service at 7:30 PM in the Amistad Chapel, Cleveland, OH

Friday, June 26, 2015
Blu Jazz Akron, Ohio

Jazz and Matisse Project Music with Stanley Chepaitis, violin, Chris Bakriges, Piano, David Morgan, Bass and Ricky Exton Drums. Live at Blu Jazz, 47 Market Street, Akron, OH

Saturday, April 18, 2015
University of Middlebury, VT
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Friday, April 17, 2015
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Friday, April 17, 2015
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Elms College, Chicopee MA
Thursday, April 16, 2015