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Glorious Days and Nights

Glorious Days and Nights: A Jazz Memoir

Herb Snitzer
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Glorious Days and Nights
    Book Description:

    Glorious Days and Nightsis a personal account of the fifty-year career of jazz photographer Herb Snitzer, with a special focus on his years in New York City from 1957 to 1964. A photojournalist forLife, Look,andFortune, Snitzer was the photo editor and later associate editor of the influential jazz magazineMetronome. During the 1960s, politics, race, and social strife and unrest swirled in Snitzer's life as a working artist. But throughout the bus boycotts, demonstrations, civil and racial unrest, what remained constant for him was jazz.

    Snitzer recalls what it was like to go on the road with these musicians. His reflections run the gamut from serious meditations on his development as a young photographer working with musicians already of great stature to more conversational recollections of casual moments spent having fun with the jazz artists many of whom became close friends.

    This book includes Snitzer's very best jazz photographs. He reveals the essences of the artists, their struggles, joys, and pains. A number of Snitzer's jazz images have become iconic, including Louis Armstrong with the Star of David, Lester Young at The Five Spot Café in New York City, John Coltrane reflected in a mirror, Thelonious Monk with piano keys reflected in his sunglasses, and Miles Davis at Newport. With eighty-five black and white images of jazz giants,Glorious Days and Nightsprovides a long-awaited testimony to the friendships and artistry that Snitzer developed over his remarkable career.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-845-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-10)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 11-12)

    The question hangs out there like gently swaying laundry. “Why am I, a middle-class humanist white guy so engrossed in the world(s) of African Americans and their drive for freedom and civil rights?” My response is always the same: inequality for one is inequality for all. Racial hatred toward one is racial (ethnic) hatred toward all others.

    My parents were pogrommed out of the Ukraine by the dreaded Cossacks so many years ago—they are both dead—yet their stories remain as vivid today as when I first heard them. How dreadfully frightened, alone, and small a black child must...

  5. 1 Beginnings
    (pp. 13-15)

    One day after graduating from college in June of 1957, I arrived in New York City to stay. You could park on the streets back then. I had driven my brother Ed’s ’51 Mercury from Philadelphia up New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan’s west side, where I rented a two-and-a-half bedroom, fifth-floor walk-up on 70th Street right off Central Park West for $70 a month. I was ready to capture the world.

    Getting there had not been easy or fun. I was a child of the thirties, a son of refugee parents who really had no idea how...

  6. 2 MOP, MOP . . . Bebop
    (pp. 15-18)

    I was new to the city, and I needed a job. I decided the best way to get one was to call up a famous photographer on the phone and ask him if he needed an assistant. I opened the phone book and looked for the list of photographers. This was the era of the national magazines,Life, Look, Time, Colliers, and theSaturday Evening Post, and if you had talent, you could make a good living. I looked down the list, and I saw the name “Arnold Newman.” He was a portrait photographer of some renown, and he had...

  7. 3 My World of Jazz
    (pp. 18-23)

    That night with Lester Young was transformative in more ways than one. His playing had spoken to my heart and made me want to know more about his music called jazz. I was new to it, and my reaction was totally unexpected. I had gone as a photographer. I didn’t even know who Lester Young was or what his background had been.

    When I walked into the offices ofMetronomemagazine looking for work, I had no idea of its history, either. The magazine had started around the turn of the century, featuring marching band music and musicians such as...

  8. 4 On the Bus with Pops and Duke
    (pp. 23-31)

    The truth of the matter was that basically none of us running the magazine had the slightest idea what we were doing. Would writing stories about young black musicians help our circulation? We had no idea. We didn’t take surveys. We had no business plan. We were a bunch of kids in our mid-twenties flying by the seats of our pants. And it seemed to be working. We were so naïve we went balls open without regard to how we might be received.

    Some of our subscribers, those who were used to seeing white faces in the magazine, wanted to...

  9. 5 The Demise of Metronome
    (pp. 31-38)

    The one glitch in the running ofMetronomewas that our editor, Bill Coss, was unreliable and drove Bob Asen, the publisher, to distraction until Asen finally let him go. In December 1960 Asen hired as managing editor David Solomon, who was in the promotion department atEsquiremagazine. Asen was hoping that Solomon would bring a hipEsquire-like sensibility to the magazine—more politics, culture, up-to-date issues.

    Solomon was hip all right. Solomon and Asen got into it almost immediately. Nevertheless, I had to give Dave credit: ideas spilled out of him. One time he told me to call...

  10. 6 Europe and Cambridge
    (pp. 38-44)

    WithMetronomegoing out of business—for the last time—I decided to go to Europe for three weeks, hoping to find some calm and new experiences both in and out of the jazz world. I knew up front that I was going to visit the Summerhill School in Leiston, Suffolk, England as I had read a book by its headmaster, A. S. Neill, and was taken by his way of educating children. I also was going to see Zoot Sims, the great Woody Herman tenor saxophonist as he was playing at Ronnie Scott’s club. I planned to meet up...

  11. 7 Conversations
    (pp. 44-51)

    Living in Cambridge gave me the opportunity to meet some of the younger jazz players for the first time. For instance, in June 1991 I arranged to interview trombonist Clifton Anderson, who was part of Sonny Rollins’s band. We met in New York City in the courtyard of Lincoln Center. Looming behind us was a massive Henry Moore sculpture. By 1991 jazz had become so marginalized that CD sales of jazz records made up only 1 percent of all music sales. This was the milieu in which jazz musicians had to survive, and it wasn’t easy. I began by asking...

  12. 8 Switzerland
    (pp. 51-56)

    Through the efforts of drummer Oliver Jackson, for three straight years I was invited to attend and photograph the Bern International Jazz Festival. The concerts were produced by Hans Zurbrugg, an amateur trumpet player (and banker) who told me he would invite Dizzy Gillespie back to Switzerland any chance he could get given how very special Dizzy was as a player and human being. The public persona—always happy-go-lucky, smiling, joking—is sometimes different from the private side and John Birks (Dizzy) is a good example of this. For all his funny antics, Dizzy was a very serious fellow, committed...

  13. Photographs
    (pp. 57-141)
  14. Afterword: The State of Jazz
    (pp. 142-143)
    Dan Morgenstern

    A fresh wind is blowing from Washington these days. After long years of slumber and inertia, straight talk and direct action are once again the order of the day. While there was no mention of jazz in J.F.K.’s State of the Union message, it is time for jazz, too, to wake up. Jazz, after all, is American music and has throughout its history mirrored and reflected America’s conscience and consciousness.

    Is the House of Jazz in good shape? On the one hand one hears more talk, reads more print and sees more images of jazz today than ever before. On...

  15. Jazz Glossary
    (pp. 144-144)