photograph © Herman Leonard –1 Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington at the Downbeat Club
I’ve always loved this photo, especially Duke Ellington’s expression of unmitigated joy…
Duke Ellington sits at the piano in a blackened theater, a brilliant shaft of light casting him in heroic silhouette.
Billie Holiday (sic – actually this is Ella Fitzgerald) stands before the microphone, lips slightly parted – as if in mid-phrase – smoke billowing softly behind her.
Oscar Peterson performs in close quarters with bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis, Peterson’s hands a blur above the keys of his piano.
The black-and-white images could be the work of only one man, Herman Leonard, perhaps the most revered jazz photographer of the 20th Century and the subject of an exquisitely produced new book, “Jazz ” (Bloomsbury, $65). Though not the first, and probably not the last, published collection of Leonard’s photographs, “Jazz” captures the textural sumptuousness of Leonard’s photography, while crystallizing his personal philosophy about the music.
Leonard, in other words, chose to celebrate the jazz life, rather than demonize it. While many jazz lensmen sensationalized the dark side of jazz – as in those ghastly photos of a drug-ravaged Chet Baker toward the end of his life – Leonard went in the opposite direction. To him, jazz musicians were to be admired, not scorned or pitied. He saw poetry where others saw melodrama; he portrayed romance where others focused on decay.
(click to continue reading A new collection of Herman Leonard’s photography, ‘Jazz,’ portrays the music in a heroic light – chicagotribune.com.)Footnotes:
- Tribune typo labeled this woman as Billie Holiday [↩]