I can honesty admit to an adrenaline rush when the lens sharp focuses, backgrounds flesh out in brilliant color, action on the bandstand reaches a climatic crescendo and I’m watching all of this from a half inch rectangle – my private world away from the surrounding crowd. Music swirls in all directions agitating and encouraging eye/brain interaction. This is where the soul intercedes and begs for patience. Not every press of the shutter will capture what’s there – on certain occasions frustrate. Ultimately, it’s a matter of luck, performance, equipment, technique and patience. This is why I look ahead to jazz festival season.
There’s nothing like shooting with bold light from the bandstand or muted daylight. For several years wife Kristine and I have been photographing the Toronto Jazz Festival. The nightly mix of jazz, soul, gospel, world, Latin and beyond brings fresh images and plenty of excitement. It is also a grand occasion to renew friendships. Much of the time spent before featured performance is shaking hands, sharing laughs and catching up on the past years news. It’s all about the hang. The big tent!
Festival’s for the most part reflect the personality of its head boss – this one being director Pat Taylor. The affable gent moves about with a broad smile and firm handshake, making everything seem flawless and easy. Underneath you know there is worry – ticket sales, artists in transient, unexpected mishaps – who knows what awaits yet Taylor has mastered the fine art of jazz cool.
I’ve worked on projects over the years and truly appreciate the fact that he’s never been one to rip the flesh like many in similar positions. It’s all about the moment – Miles look at what you’ve done!
Early on both Kristine and I followed master photographer Paul Hoeffler footprint by footprint. I figured all of those iconic images had to come from the place the master claimed ground. Two years back Kristine was honored with the International Jazz Journalist Award for Photograph of the Year – Hank Jones at the piano hands high in the air taken at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The press room in Montreal was all a buzz wondering who this person was. For Kristine this was every photographers moment to shine. The late great photographer Herman Leonard was on hand and asked to meet her. At 86 years old he still possessed that Louisiana charm, the big hug and soft kiss for the woman. To this day she relives the moment as though it happened only moments ago.
Paul was a tough study. In between the persistent complaining and lessons in craft were these wonderful conversations about art – the symphony, the writers, lost mentors, the fleeting moment we all missed.
Paul missed the old days at Newport back in 1959. Event promoters gave ground to lens jockeys allowing the best to shoot at will. Paul pushed every button. If he could he’d shoot the piano player underneath his bench ignoring the world and oblivious to living beings in seats – he was man in the ultimate jazz zone.
You can’t do such things anymore. Managers and artists call the shots. There are restrictions on the number of songs and always a time limit unless you’ve been elevated to staff photographer. Still, there is always the lame fellow who owns a camera then weasels his way into an event with dubious accreditation who stands in front of a paying audience and sticks his ass in their face. These are times a slap upside the head is warranted.
June 24Th can’t get here quick enough. Aretha Franklin, Dave Brubeck, the Average White Band, the MGs, Robert Cray, Youssou N’Dour, Bela Fleck, The Roots, Bootsy Collins…now, that gets the camera hand grooving.
Every night after a day of shooting it’s back to the computer downloading the day’s images. The process begins then what to exhibit – what to discard. Fortunately, we have the new revamped Ejazznews photo gallery where everything will arrive shortly after processing. My, how the world of photography has radically changed. Paul would have loved this!
See you all there!