Many of Mark Kostabi's artworks feature musicians and, more specifically, pianists. In one of his paintings, titled "I Did it Steinway," a pianist shackled to the piano bench is depicted.
When asked about this piece Kostabi said, "I can relate. It's a self-inflicted chain. If you notice, the pianist could easily free himself by lifting up the piano seat. It sends a subtle message that you really have to discipline yourself - and not just with the piano, but anything you want to be good at.
"But it's not a painful imprisonment, because once you do what you love and for me playing piano for 4 hours every morning is a pleasure," he said. "Rock musicians often play three chords in front of 50,000 people, whereas jazz musicians play 50,000 chords in front of three people but, I'm in between. I believe in not overdoing it with technique and keeping things clear and simple, but I'm not a three-chord person, either."
Kostabi began taking piano lessons at age 12 from his mother, who was a professional piano teacher.
Then at age 15, he began composing music; mainly for piano but as his talents for the piano grew, so did his compositions to feature many other instruments. Musically, Kostabi is inspired by Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman. His compositions have been performed by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Rein Rannap and Kristjan Jarvi.
He has performed as a soloist and with other musicians, including, Ornette Coleman, Tony Levin and Jerry Marotto.
His CDs include "I Did it Steinway," "Songs for Sumera," "New Alliance" and "The Spectre of Modernism."
Kostabi designed the album cover for Guns N' Roses' "Use Your Illusion" and when asked about his thoughts on Axl Rose's recent decision to decline induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Kostabi said, "I completely respect it. My feeling is that Axl Rose and Slash don't want to ever see each other again."
The incident reminded Kostabi of how he felt after the Beatles broke up.
He said, "I remember being a teenager in the 1970s and wishing the Beatles would get back together - just like millions of other people did for the sake of the music - and wondered why petty squabbles between musicians get in the way of creating beautiful music for the world and that they should get over it and do something that the world really appreciates.
"However, I can now see it from the other point of view because I have lived a little and in my travels, I have encountered some people that I have worked with that I never want to see again." He said, "I like to be an optimistic person but I have been burned before and there are some people I wish I would never see again for my whole life, let alone I certainly wouldn't want to work with them everyday, which is what you have to do when you are in a band."
When asked about why he decided to come to Williamsport, he said, "It was because of Casey [Gleghorn] through my brother Paul [who was featured at the Grey Art Gallery in February]. I have been hearing a lot about it, my brother Paul has been there several times and I'm really looking forward to it."
On Tuesday, The Kostabi Quartet will perform at the Capital Lounge in the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St., from 6 to 9 p.m. The quartet features Mark on piano, Paul Kostabi on guitar, Scott Colberg on bass, and Roman Klun on drums.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
For ticket information, contact the Grey Art Gallery at 435-7080.