Ken Franckling is an award-winning jazz writer and photographer who has been covering the mainstream jazz scene for more than 40 years.
I am a veteran arts writer and freelance photographer specializing in music photography. Since the early 1980s, I have covered the jazz scene throughout the Northeast with occasional journeys to other regions in pursuit of essential musical moments. I am now immersing myself in the Southwest Florida jazz scene.
I published Jazz in the Key of Light (Eighty of our Finest Jazz Musicians Speak for Themselves) in August 2014. George Wein wrote the Foreword to this limited edition, 160 pp. fine art photo book that's already being hailed as a collector's item. It's available on Amazon and through my blog.
My serious interest in jazz was formed while involved with the campus radio station at St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York's Snow Belt from 1969 to 1971. It began flourishing in the early 1980s after the Newport Jazz Festival returned to its Rhode Island roots and I began covering that return as a news story while a staff reporter/news editor for United Press International.
I covered jazz and wrote a regular column, The Jazz Condition, for UPI for more than 20 years, and am now a columnist for the Jazz Journalists Association's Jazz Notes newsletter and a contributing writer / photographer for JazzTimes, OffBeat, Hot House and other publications. I was a 1987 winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism, essentially for an extended (4,000 word+) 60th birthday UPI LifeSize profile on Miles Davis.
On the photo side, my Music in the Key of Light stock includes images of more than 4,000 musicians. Many of my images have been published in jazz books, and some are in public and many private collections. In 2003 and 2016, I received the Jazz Journalist Association's Lona-Foote-Bob Parent Award as Jazz Photographer of the Year. I have covered 41 consecutive Newport Jazz Festivals for a variety of publications, most recently JazzTimes and OffBeat magazines.
Music lovers in general, and jazz fans in particular, relish those moments that I refer to as epiphanies. Something happens that is so magical, you walk away with a lighter, yet slower, step. Marveling, perhaps, at what your eyes, ears and all other senses have just witnessed and absorbed. Usually, it is the chemistry between the musicians that reach an uncommon height as they connect with each other and pull the audience deeper into this shared experience.
Those kinds of things are the rarities — always sought after, yet when they happen — you know it. And you savor it, never knowing when the musical spirits will send another one your way.
The photographic and written moments we work to reveal in music take place in the same way. In live performance, musicians reveal a sense of themselves that extends beyond the moment. Capturing it is the challenge. Sharing it with others who understand is the joy.