I shot this photograph a few years ago at a street carnival in Miami. I have always liked this one but more importantly, it is on the subject of music—one of my never-ending on-going themes. On reflection, I sometimes wonder what it is that attracts me to these “themes’. What is the hook? Being a photographer is about reflection, it is about examining the things that are going on in your life. It is about self-discovery. At least that is how I see it and so on the subject of music, this is where I came from.

Years ago, way back in the last century, I was a young kid with very little going on in my life when I met my friend Harvey who would be my best buddy for many years to come. It was at the end of my high school career and I had no future and no past to think of. It was that special age—that bridge from teen to adult that some get through easier than others. We would spend our time hanging out together all the time and it was at this time that I discovered Jazz. We would spend endless hours in his basement, smoking, listening to Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evens, etc. and talk/dream/wonder about the years to come. Eventually we ended up on separate paths, although we still talk to each other about once a year. The main part of this though is that this is where my love of music began and continues to be a major part of my life. It is in my head. To this day, if there is nothing going on upstairs, or I am a bit depressed, or whatever, I can still put myself back in that basement and play “Green Dolphin Street” in my head—every note, every solo.

These days, whenever I am wandering around with a camera around my neck and I hear music, I am drawn to it like a moth to the flame. It could be a street festival (like this one), a street musician, an outdoor concert, some guys banging drums in the street—anything, with sound but to me it is all about those days as a kid, smoking cigarettes, and listening to jazz in that smoke-filled basement.

I have also said, when I take photographs, they are about me. When I choose to photograph something, it is because it is something from my past, my dreams, my life that pops out at a particular moment. It is a statement that says, that this is where I stood, on a particular day at a particular time and this is what I felt. Photographs to me are very, very personal.

musicians

I love photographing musicians but I am never happy with the results. Perhaps I am just too critical of myself but it has always been that way. I am sure I have thousands of “masterpieces” stashed away in some dark place but I will never see them.

Last night I watched a documentary that I had recorded on my TV about Blue Note Records. It was about the record company that defined Jazz recording in the 50’s and 60’s. Not only did I love the music, but I absolutely adored the album covers which were usually in Black and White and tinted with a cold blue haze that I could not help but fall in love with. The graphics were always Helvetica and the design was always “funky crisp”. The only one I remember that differentiated from this pattern was a Horace Silver album called “Blowing the Blues Away” which had a scratchy line drawing instead of a photo. — but I digress. In any case, these are the memories that I grew up with and the program about the two guys who began this company rivited me throughout.

A few days ago we invited my new neighbor to come in for a drink. He had one… or two… or more and began to ramble about his past acheivements. Somhow he ended up telling me that he was CEO of a company called CTI records which I had never heard of. He raved about having Rudy Van Gelder as his producer and Pete Turner doing the album covers, and the endless list of “names” that they recorded. I thought I knew everything about Jazz records which were produced then — I mean, For a few years I did nothing more than spend all my money at Alec Sherman’s in Montreal, rummaging through their jazz selections looking for a new Charlie Mingus or Thelonious Monk disk to bring back— rip off the cellophane wrapper and throw it on my turntable, gingerly place the stylus on the vinyl,  light up a joint and listen away. But I had never heard of CTI so I immediately dismissed him as a bullshitter who just happened to know these names. He spun a good tale though so I patiently listened to him ramble on until after midnight when he left. As soon as I shut the door, I raced upstairs and Googled CTI and found out that there was a record company by this name, they were well known for the design of their album covers (all by Pete Turner) and I guess he wasn’t a bullshitter  after all. My lesson learned is that in these modern times, you can always check something out on Google instead of dismissing someone outright. But I digress again.

Why am I saying all of this? Its because a while back, I was interviewed by an Italian Photo magazine (Zoom) and they asked me how I came to be a photographer. I absolutely forgot to mention this early inspiration, but I will say it now— if it weren’t for those Blue Note album covers, I doubt I would ever be a photographer today. And If I were, I would be much more satisfied with my musician pictures since I would noit have to compare them with those old masterpieces. Oh ya— sorry I doubted you Jerry.