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The Jazz Image

The Jazz Image: Seeing Music through Herman Leonard's Photography

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Jazz Image
    Book Description:

    Typically a photograph of a jazz musician has several formal prerequisites: black and white film, an urban setting in the mid-twentieth century, and a black man standing, playing, or sitting next to his instrument. That's the jazz archetype that photography created. Author K. Heather Pinson discovers how such a steadfast script developed visually and what this convention meant for the music.Album covers, magazines, books, documentaries, art photographs, posters, and various other visual extensions of popular culture formed the commonly held image of the jazz player. Through assimilation, there emerged a generalized composite of how mainstream jazz looked and sounded. Pinson evaluates representations of jazz musicians from 1945 to 1959, concentrating on the seminal role played by Herman Leonard (b. 1923). Leonard's photographic depictions of African American jazz musicians in New York not only created a visual template of a black musician of the 1950s, but also became the standard configuration of the music's neoclassical sound today. To discover how the image of the musician affected mainstream jazz, Pinson examines readings from critics, musicians, and educators, as well as interviews, musical scores, recordings, transcriptions, liner notes, and oral narratives.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-495-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    Herman Leonard’s photographs are some of the most recognized images in jazz history. His depictions of predominantly African American jazz musicians in New York City have created not only a visual record of jazz in the 1950s, but have also become the standard by which the musical style of jazz was, and continues to be, visually represented. His photographs have, in effect, established a strong association between the image and music of jazz. The termimagecan be illusive and loaded with multiple meanings, but for the purposes of this book, it means not only concrete visual depiction, but also...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Formation of the Jazz Image in Visual Culture
    (pp. 16-62)

    The general consensus of a mental picture of a jazz musician would be a well-dressed African American man playing an instrument, most likely a saxophone or a trumpet, with smoke wafting about the stage on which he is playing at a nightclub. With majors ranging from nursing to corporate communication, my own university students described their ideas of what a jazz musician looks like: “laid back, older man, saxophone in hand with shades on, inside smoky bar,” as an “African American male, nicely dressed, with saxophone,” and as “a black man, wearing a nice suit probably of unique color, and...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Construction of Signs in Jazz Photography
    (pp. 63-98)

    How can a picture represent a style of music? What image comes to mind when we think about a musical genre? With classical music, one generally imagines an instrument such as a flute or violin, the thunderous sounds of a symphony orchestra playing the music of Beethoven, or Mozart at the clavichord in the movieAmadeus. With pop music, one imagines the facial makeup of Kiss, the Beatles’ album covers, or jeans, a cowboy hat, and an acoustic guitar with country. Every category of music contains its own identity, a trait not shared by other genres. Then how is it...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Ceci n’est pas jazz: The Battle for Ownership
    (pp. 99-141)

    After the free jazz and fusion eras of the 1960s and 1970s, the pendulum of musical taste shifted from the avant-garde scene to more traditional norms of mainstream jazz. The fusion era seemingly ran its course, and a new generation of musicians pursued the musical standards of bop in the early 1980s and dedicated their albums to past heroes such as Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young. This resurgence in the 1980s of the classic jazz of the 1940s and 1950s is seen as the neoclassical era.¹

    Leonard’s association with jazz was also being reborn at the same time...

  9. CHAPTER 4 A “Style Portrait” of the Avant-Garde
    (pp. 142-181)

    The image of jazz today is a complex one that comes from several sources. As we have learned in the previous chapters, Leonard’s resurfacing photographs have played a significant role in determining the current composition of the jazz image today. Complementary to Leonard, neoclassicism has blossomed under the support of the jazz community and the general public through endowments, documentaries, commercials, recording contracts, promotions, and the young lions. Both neoclassicism and Leonard’s ideal image of jazz has propelled the recent success of jazz, gathering attention from the American and European public.

    However, the neoclassical image is not the only stimulant...

  10. Conclusion The Visual Image of Jazz
    (pp. 182-185)

    With statements like this from his autobiography, Miles Davis hypothesizes that the jazz community—musicians, listeners, and critics—should embrace components of music that lie outside of traditional jazz composition, instrumentation, and style, even if the result does not sound like standardized jazz music. In some cases, the audience will not like the music, nor are they required to, as we determined in the last chapter. So how do members of the jazz community like Miles Davis justify developing new music knowing the public will not approve and album sales will suffer? How can new music be cultivated under constant...

  11. APPENDIX A Herman Leonard Timeline 1923 to 2008
    (pp. 186-190)
  12. APPENDIX B List of Exhibitions for Herman Leonard’s Photography
    (pp. 191-196)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 197-223)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 224-235)
  15. Index
    (pp. 236-240)