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Jazz Idiom by Charles L. Robinson and Al Young

The title is inspired by the column “Jazz Idiom,” which Robinson wrote for the San Francisco State University (then San Francisco State College) newspaper in the ’50s. Author/poet Al Young’s lengthy and illuminating introduction documents his friend Robinson’s evolution as a photographer, and his love of jazz and how it influenced his work. Robinson’s photos were taken between 1969 and 1972 at the Monterey Jazz Festival and other Southern California locales. The book also thoughtfully includes mini-bios of all the jazz artists depicted, as well as a list of books on jazz for “further reading.”

Each photo is enhanced by Robinson’s fascinating recollection of the photo shoot and the artist, plus an evocative “poetic take” or “riff” from Young. Monk, Duke, Mingus, Dizzy, Hines, Cannonball, Simone, Desmond, Miles, Eckstine, Jacquet, Mulligan and Hodges are among those sensitively captured both visually and with the written word in this collection.

Young on Johnny Hodges: “‘Rabbit,’ they called you … You sniffed out melody. You always had your way with a ballad; you took your time. You always took your time. Rabbits do not.”

Robinson on Mary Lou Williams: “I knew of her stature and respected her stature, so I had to do an elbow number on a couple of white photographers … you could look up her dress … They wanted to take pictures of that. Every time the guy next to me raised his camera, I’d bump him. I did this about three times. They got the message.”

Originally Published