am 18. März 2006
If you were a jazz fan in the Fifties this book will be the ultimate visual memory jogger. It is a huge book, too, weighing in at over fifteen pounds (a bit more with its handy carrying box) and with spreads opening to an impressive twenty-three inches wide by sixteen deep. The 696 beautifully printed pages feature an expanded collection of photos originally taken for the 1961 German book 'Jazz Life' produced by Joachim Berendt and William Claxton.
In four months during 1960 these two motored across the America and it would seem photographed every important jazz musician that mattered and what stunning photos they are. Page after page of folks you have been listening to for years and not just recording studio shots but plenty of informal and location photos. Musicians everywhere get a look in, New Orleans, Kansas, St Louis, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, from ragtime to bop to East and West coast styles. Each area has an essay and all the photos are captioned. Looking through the book for the first time with its huge page size and Claxton's sympathetic jazz camera is a rather awesome experience.
There is a forty-two minute CD with the book (the original German edition had two seven inch LPs) of music recorded by Berendt but I thought it was rather bland in its choice of tracks. Predominately New Orleans traditional and spirituals with a very small sampling of other styles some of which annoyingly fade out before the end. I bet at the time though the music added to book's success in, a still rather war-torn, Germany.
'Jazz Life' celebrates a great American music style with photos you can almost hear. I doubt there will be anything as good as this published again.
*A Shorty Rogers tune dedicated to Bill Claxton