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http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/08/16/hearing-music-in-photos-of-jazz-giants/?emc=edit_tnt_20160816

Hearing Music in
Photos of Jazz Giants
By John Leland date published Aug. 16, 2016 date updated
Aug. 16, 2016


A good jazz photograph tells its story musically as much as visually. More than images of rock, classical or hip-hop musicians, jazz images, like those of Ted Williams, who studied saxophone and clarinet before picking up the camera after World War II, seem to capture the intangible essence of a thought being transformed into sound.
Maybe it’s the way the photos’ lithe rhythms of light and dark riff on the rhythms in the music. Or maybe it’s the way photography by its nature encapsulates the never-to-be-repeated instant, which is the building block of jazz improvisation.
Photo

 
Dizzy Gillespie performing onstage.
Credit
Ted Williams/Iconic Images
Or maybe it’s just the cool suits.
Whatever. Charlie Parker’s photograph erupts from the frame with the kinetic restlessness of his blowing; Dizzy Gillespie’s disarming studiousness over the chessboard hums like his geometric solos. Count Basie is all smoke and rhythm, and Billie Holiday doesn’t need sound to sing the blues. The camera says it all for her. Listen to Williams’s portrait of Paul Desmond (reserved, measured) beside his volcanic shot of John Coltrane. Hear the difference? You can almost fill in the sounds of the bass and drums, the temperature in the room, the suspended breath of the audience, wondering what will come next. In the photographs, of course, it never does. Like good jazz, they leave you with endless possibility waiting to happen. It’s a promise and a reward at once.
(Someday, maybe someone will think to replace the American flag with an old Blue Note album cover, and then the national anthem will really swing. Maybe.)
Photo

 
Duke Ellington onstage with his orchestra.
Credit
Ted Williams/Iconic Images
Williams, who died in 2009, was born in Texas in 1925, and he worked steadily from the late 1940s to the late 1970s, shooting the jazz world for Time, Newsweek, Playboy, Downbeat and others. When he died he left behind tens of thousands of images, mostly uncataloged and unpublished, a record of a life spent listening through his camera. The images here come from a new book, published by ACC Editions, called simply “Jazz: The Iconic Images of Ted Williams.”
It’s a long period of time. The country was changing, the music was changing. The civil rights movement surged and peaked. The audience, by the end, was mostly elsewhere. In these photographs, though, the music plays on, never dated, always right on time.




 
 


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