Touching greatness: ‘Jazz Life’ Photography

When a musician reaches higher than other mortals to give us a glimpse of an unknown truth, we marvel at the invention and the daring.  It is human to seek connection with greatness because we want to experience that sound again; weighing up what we have witnessed and desiring to understand it better. In the hands of the most gifted practitioners of the Jazz arts this connection can be made through photography, painting or the print media.  If the ink, paint or emulsion is spilt for the sake of it then the magic is not communicated, but if the photographer is William Claxton and the wordsmith is Joachim Berendt then we are deeply enriched. In 1960 Claxton and Berendt undertook a massive road journey in a Cadillac; traveling the highways of America and capturing the ‘Jazz Life‘. Berendt is a respected musicologist and between them they recorded something else; an unvarnished glimpse into the America of the time.   This is Americana in print and it gives a deep context to the music.

When viewing Claxton photographs we feel that we can almost touch the soul of the artist and while some of the portraits are deliberately posed they still convey the deepest sense of casual intimacy.  This is the very essence of greatness that we have been seeking and we feel lucky to have these images, this music and these stories in our lives.  It makes us part of the Jazz Life; insiders.

This is a truly great book in all senses of the word. It stands knee-high in its slipcase and weighs enough to have been the subject of warnings by physiotherapists.  Once it has been safely transported home (using a heavy haulage transporter) and the (momentary) feelings of guilt at outlaying so much on one book have been overcome, get a friend to help you lift it onto the table.

The joy then unfolds page by wonderful page; touching greatness through the eyes of William Claxton.  A journey into the heart of the American Jazz Life

Disclaimer: I certainly did not outlay the $1,500 per copy that the TASCHEN collectors edition sells for at Amazon, but I refuse to say what I actually paid on the grounds that could get me into trouble at home if I did.

4 thoughts on “Touching greatness: ‘Jazz Life’ Photography

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  2. If you have even a hint of nostalgia in you for goodness sake watch the ‘Blue Moon’ – William Claxton You Tube clip with Ben Webster playing against 100 or so pictures from the ‘Jazz Life’ book. Also see Dylan and Steve McQueen in the mix.

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