Jazz Katz: Jazz In N.Y.
A number of books have brought classic jazz photography to coffee tables around the world. While it’s nice and historically significant to have images by William Claxton, Francis Wolff and Herman Leonard in this large-scale format, it also serves to collect the lives and times of current players that continue to blaze new musical trails. Jazz Katz: Jazz in N.Y. collects 175 images taken between 1991, when former skier and mountaineer Jimmy Katz began shooting at recording sessions and concerts, and more recent years. Some of the musicians have since passed on, but the images on these pages capture the current vitality of the music.
In the book’s introduction, producer Michael Cuscuna talks about Katz’s ability to portray the intimacy and immediacy of the musicians. This holds true whether his subject is onstage, backstage or at home. The last setting in particular reveals quite a bit about their personalities. Roy Haynes, who hides behind shades in most photographs, sits at home at his piano, staring into the lens with an enthusiastic and welcoming glare. Wayne Shorter, wearing a Superman shirt, stares at a desk filled with sheet music, a soprano saxophone and two books by science fiction author Lois McMaster Bujold. Multiple shots of Sonny Rollins range from saturnine to mischievous.
Katz’s exterior shots of the Blue Note and Village Vanguard could be considered commentary on the music’s future. Both show virtually empty sidewalks beneath the awnings, where crowds should clamor. The other pages prove that jazz is a living, breathing entity, but these two seem to state that it’s up to everyone to keep it alive.