Jazz Lives: 100 Portraits in Jazz

Joel Roberts By

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Jazz Lives: 100 Portraits in Jazz by Gene Lees; photographs by John Reeves
Stewart House (1994)
ISBN 1-895246-30-X

Most books of jazz photography focus on the jazz musician as performer, seeking to capture the artist in the midst of creative exploration, preferably in a dark, suitably atmospheric nightclub. Jazz Lives takes a different, more contemplative approach, offering intimate glimpses of one hundred musicians, many shot in their own homes, by photographer John Reeves. No instruments are shown, just head shots of a wide range of both famous and lesser known jazz personalities. With perfectly matched accompanying essays by the eminent jazz writer Gene Lees, the book is a thoughtful, inside look at some of the men and women who make the music.

The subjects of these portraits represent a true cross-section of the jazz world. In addition to major stars like Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, and Tony Bennett, we find under-appreciated veterans like Ernie Andrews, Harold Land, Lou Levy, John Heard, and Ed Thigpen. As proof of the ever-increasing internationalism of jazz, artists from ten different countries are included, with particular attention paid to musicians from Canada, the homeland of both the author and photographer. Family relationships are also emphasized, with a number of joint entries for brothers (Pete and Conte Candoli, Winard and Philip Harper), husbands and wives (Jackie and Roy), fathers and sons (Chubby and Duffy Jackson, Al and Michael Grey), and fathers and daughters (Jimmy and Stacy Rowles).

The portraits are arranged chronologically, from oldest to youngest, beginning with trombonist Spiegle Willcox (born 1903), who once shared the bandstand with Bix Beiderbecke, and saxophonist Bill Challis (born 1904), who wrote arrangements for Paul Whiteman, Fletcher Henderson, and Artie Shaw. By the time we arrive at the book's final entries for pianist Geoff Keezer (born 1970), saxophonist Chris Potter (born 1971), and bass phenom Christian McBride (born 1972), we have taken an exhilarating journey, in words and pictures, through the history of jazz, and we are reassured that the music remains in good hands.

If you would like to purchase Jazz Lives, please send a check or money order for $40 U.S. (United States and Canada), $45 for other countries to: Two Trees Publishing, PO Box 35, Summerland, California 93067. Postage and handling is included. Checks should be made payable to Two Trees Publishing. The book will be sent immediately on receipt of your check or money order.


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