Thursday, July 14, 2016

Seeing Jazz: The History of Jazz Photography....carrying on the tradition

Seeing Jazz: 

The History of Jazz Photography....carrying on the tradition

I am so thankful for Benjamin Cawthra’s book Blue Notes in Black and White:  Photography and Jazz because this book helps me see the history of what I do.  I am a photographer who has a rich and deep connection to jazz.  Jazz was the music that I feel in love with as a kid in the 1960s.  As a baby my father would sit me beside the speakers of his record player and let the smooth sounds of Wes Montgomery quiet a crying child.  I was that child and Wes Montgomery was my comforter.

I find myself in my mid-fifties and I am still in love with jazz.  As a photographer jazz is one of my main subjects and Cawthra’s book has helped me wrap my mind and eyes around the history of jazz photography.  While I knew of the artist he writes about, both musicians and photographers, I needed his work to help me put the big picture together. The book gives you a timeline and way to walk thought the history of jazz and jazz photography in context.  The color and context of jazz comes to life in this work.

This book also helped me see what is next.  I am not just collecting images of jazz artists but rather I am creating a visual story that speaks to the past, present and future of jazz in historical context.  My images are a part of this great legacy and I must treat this work as a child of those who have come before me.  The great photographers whose work Cawthra’s helps me see is so important to be familiar with.  As a modern artist I am not creating new work but rather I am creating work that is connected to the past. 

Artist must know their history because in knowing your history you see how you and your work are connected.  Your work is what is next but it can’t be separated from what came before.  As we look back at our artistic history it informs our work and we begin to see and shoot in relationship to our ancestors and elders. Cawthra’s book brings those great artist from the past to life. This is a life giving book and I thank God for the life it gave me. What is that story that you are a part of? What came before you and your work that you need to consult in order to create?

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Power of Play: Love, Listen, Learn and Sound Good Together

To see musicians play together amazes me. They listen to each other, appreciate each other, compliment each other and we are the ultimate beneficiaries.  The give and take that goes on on stage is a model for what life and leadership can be when we love what we do and appreciate those we do it with. In life and in organizations we can have a tendency to look down on others and not value what they bring to the table.  In music the artists appreciate the artistry and instrument their fellow band member brings to the stage and the play together.

To watch Antone Knight share the stage with the likes of Ken Ford was moving.  Not that I haven't seen this before but to see it last night moved me in a special way.  As I reflect on my journey today I am mindful of how arrogant people dismiss and talk down to others and I so wish we could learn to play together. When we play we have to listen and respect the other as we want to sound good together.  Today I recommit to listen and play with others.  Who do you need to be listening to?  Can you hear those you play with?  What is your role in the band you play in?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Being Willing to Make Mistakes: Pushing the Art

Last night was my first time seeing / hearing Victor Wooten live.  I am a bass fan and to be honest I love the guitar.  My love relationship with jazz began with great guitar players.  When it comes to the bass it is at the core of this love affair.  While I have seen and heard Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke I hadn’t heard Victor. Now that I have heard all three I can say I have been in the presence of the Holy Trinity of Bass Players.

The show was spiritual.  You feel the power of the Spirit working through Victor. He is a good person and his music amplifies his angelic presence. While the show was truly moving what impressed me most was his willing to push the envelope.  He and his band played a song they hadn’t rehearsed over and over but rather they were introduced to the song during sound check.   Victor admitted that this was a new song and this was their first time playing it and there were going to be some mistakes.  He was clear you have to go for it, try new stuff and you have to live with the mistakes if you are going to get better.

Victor said, “I would rather us go for something cool and mess up rather than play it safe and play the same way every night.” This spoke volumes to me and my work as well as the gift that is Victor Wooten.  Victor isn’t satisfied with what he has created but rather he is always creating new stuff as he pushes the envelope as he delights in the gifts of mistakes.  If we are going to grow we have to try new stuff and live with the mess of the creative process of becoming that artist you were created to be.  Are you willing to make mistakes as you push your art to the next point on the journey?  Are you making enough  mistakes are or you playing it safe (pun intended)?

Monday, May 2, 2016

David P Stevens: All the Way Live

As a kid my favorite jazz artist was Wes Montgomery.  From my earliest relationship with jazz it has been through the guitar.  I tell you this so that you can understand why I am so excited about seeing David P. Stevens perform.  I heard David P prior to seeing him live and I wasn’t ready for his live performance.  He was totally awesome. 

When I go to see an artist I don’t just want to hear the music I want to see them perform. I want to be entertained as I listen to their music live.  I have found artist who sound great when I am home listening to them and then I see them live and they are horrible.  In the case of David P. Stevens he adds an entire new level to his music.  He and his music come to life when you see him perform.  He is an artist who understands how to entertain you while not taking away from the quality of his music and or musicianship.

First you will hear a great musician.  He is awesome on the guitar.  His finger work will amaze you.  His sound is incredibly clean as he  plays with passion and energy.  When I hear him and see him you can feel the music.  He touches you when he plays.  You literally feel the music.  You sit there in amazement of what you are hearing and seeing; you want to get up and dance but you are spell bound by his technique and the quality of the music.  All I can say is, if David P Stevens is in town you want to go see him.

To see more of my images from the show go to the following:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Photography is Jazz for the Eyes

I am well into a new body of work and the journey is amazing. My new work is rooted in my love for jazz and photography.  The work brings together these two loves of mine in ways that is life giving for me and I hope also for those who engage the work.
The past weekend I shoot at The Velvet Note here in Atlanta (Alpharetta) and once again it was amazing.  I am the Artist in Residence at the Velvet Note and Tamara Fuller, the owner has been more than gracious to me.  This week she had Curtis Lundy perform and ignited a new fire in me to hear this great music.  Curtis Lundy was the bassist and music director for Betty Carter and he is still as hot as ever.  

Curtis Lundy was joined by Joe Doubleday on vibraphone, Howard Nicholson on saxophone, Terreon Gully on drums and Louis Heriveaux on piano.  The music moved William Claxton, the great jazz photographer would say, “I listen with my eyes.”  As I watched for light trying to find good shots it was as if I to were playing with the band in my own way.  While not up on stage, I like all the other members of the audience felt as if they were playing just for me.  
One of the many wonderful things about The Velvet Note is its intimacy and exquisite sound.  It is literally the acoustic living room.  It is music the way it was meant to be heard and you are up close and personal with artirst.  My work is to show the music in my images.  Once again retiring to one my idols, William Claxton, “Photography is jazz for the eye.” He then goes on to say, “All I ask you to do is listen with your eyes.” I invite you to follow me on this new journey as this body of work evolves.  

I See Jazz…will you look with me?