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Images of the Blues by Lee Tanner and Lee Hildebrand

Lee Tanner’s b&w cover photo of vintage B.B. King-eyes closed, lost in sweet reverie as he squeezes another gloriously blue note out of Lucille-sets the tone for this compelling visual journey. A companion piece to his Images of Jazz, this photo gallery benefits greatly from the firsthand observations, evaluations and insights of Lee Hildebrand, the respected Bay Area-based scribe who has written about blues, soul, jazz and gospel since 1968. Together the two Lees concocted an evocative portrait of this rich and mysterious music that was once described by one of its finest practitioners, Charles Brown, this way: “It’s hard to put into words. It’s just a certain kind of picture some people can paint.”

In an overview entitled “The Blues Century,” Hildebrand lays out a brisk yet credible primer for the novice, tracing the music from Southern field hollers and work songs to the classic blues singers and ragtime guitar pickers of the ’20s,following its evolution to boogie woogie pianists and big band blues shouters of the ’30s, the emergence of Chicago’s electrified blues scene in the late ’40s, and the development of gospel blues, soul blues and rock ‘n’ roll in the ’50s and ’60s. Though they make token stabs at continuing the lineage through the ’70s and ’80s to the present with selected photos andcutlines of contemporary players, the bulk of this book is devoted to the pioneers of the genre, those heroic bluesmen and women whom the two Lees grew up idolizing.

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