Each November, the EFG London Jazz Festival takes over the city’s boroughs and major art venues, and – for the sixth year running – I’m capturing the headliners and highlights, as well as the lower-key, but nevertheless extremely noteworthy masterclasses and workshops.
Jazz photography has a long and respected history and has always kept abreast of changing photographic fashions, cameras and lens development. Understandably, many people associate classic jazz shots with the era spanning the 1940s to the 1960s (think William Claxton and DownBeat photographer William P. Gottlieb), when a fast lens and black-and-white film came of age and into the hands of many more people. This access meant that many giants of 20th century jazz – among them Monk, Parker, Hawkins, Ellington, Mingus, Davis and Hines – were captured in their prime, ensuring a strong archive was stored for prosperity.
Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, recorded jazz sales are nowhere near what they were in the heyday of labels like Verve and Blue Note and Teo Macero's intense production schedule at Columbia, but the UK's live jazz scene is in good health, and the EFG London Jazz Festival reflects the contemporary, thriving scene by way of a bucketload of diverse events. Luckily, these live performances are also presented in glorious colour!
Often a jazz musician's on-stage presence is captured as a solitary 3/4-length portrait or headshot; however, this document often belies either the dynamic range of colour or variety of venue backdrop, or it excludes other members of the group. Regular viewers of my work will know that I like to pull back a little and hook in some contextual reference to the artist's performing environment. A little patience observing the act’s interplay and close observation of background detail pays dividends and can offer a more sympathetic, but graphic representation of the skill and passion on display.
So, with a nod of admiration to those pioneers of black-and-white jazz photography, here’s a brief selection of the 2013 edition of EFG London Jazz Festival so far – with a strong injection and juxtaposition of colour...