My love of jazz is not matched by my knowledge of the musicians who made it. I know about Miles Davis because I read his biography. And I readily admit that what I know about most other musicians came from reading that biography. There are few whom I could recognize from a photo. Of course, I’ve seen images of really famous artists. Who hasn’t seen a picture of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, or Duke Ellington? But Kenny Burrell or Oscar Peterson, though I’ve heard much of their music, I can’t put faces to the names.
When I got into jazz years ago, much of the music available today was out of print. I dug around vintage record store bins looking for something interesting. Using jazz history books, I decided what recordings to buy, but it never occurred to me to look for images. A few weeks ago, I decided to fix this by purchasing a book on jazz photography. That was a bust; the book was primarily an academic history with few images. Fortunately, my wife pays attention to my ramblings; she gifted me with a beautiful set of books. Getting these books is more exciting than I expected because I am now putting images to music. For those artists whose images are familiar, I am struck by the quality of the photos—some I’d like to gently cut out and frame.
Seeing the quality of these photos, I want to make my own. Luckily, Atlanta has many yearly music festivals, including an annual Jazz festival. Many are outdoors, so I may be able to grab a camera, sit a ways back, and make a few images for framing. That will give me a reason to buy that 100-400mm lens I have been eying.
Many, many years ago I worked at a discount drug store in a Detroit suburb. There was a young girl cashier that told me about Miles Davis. I bought my first jazz album, “Seven Steps to Heaven”- I was hooked! Years after that my new wife and I saw Davis live at another suburban venue. We were both blown away. He was into his “fusion” days then, which I did not dig on records, but to hear it live was incredible. He wore a red leather suit with a red leather pork pie hat, and he played for two hours without saying a word- then left the stage.
At almost 80, I am still buying jazz vinyl when I find it. I like to take a flyer on artists I have never heard of. A few days ago I got “Shelly Mann and His Men at the Blackhawk” Vol. 2. Very nice, for $8.00. Now I will look for volume 1, 3 and 4!
Hello fellow jazz buff! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful anecdote. I’m into the cool jazz phase of Miles. In fact, all cool from 1953-early 1960s. However, I do like In a Silent Way. One thing I just discovered was the soundtrack “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud”, a haunting work. I’ve found a few current European jazz artists who emulate Miles’ style, and I like their music–Oystein Sevag, Till Bronner, Nils Petter Molvaer. John Hassell is not bad either. If you wish to read my jazz origin story, read the post, Du Jazz. Happy hunting for 1, 3, and 4!
I’m sure you are familiar with the jazz photography of Francis Wolff, who was one of the co-owners of Blue Note Records. His photography is truly epic, and I recommend getting a book of his work if you can find one.
Thanks for the tip!