Glass enclosure

Bud Powell backstage, Paris, 1959. Astonishing photograph. Jon Mayer posted this, sent to him by a fan who’d snapped the pic a half century before. Bud and Mayer shared the bill, Bud doing a set, then Jon, then Bud, then Jon. Now one of LA’s best jazz pianists, Jon Mayer was a young kid in from NYC and on top of his game, ideas coming at the speed of light, fingers flying. Bud Powell was good then too, but epileptic and post-electroshock therapy. He probably looked out on a world in two dimensions that never quite connected, un poco loco, wondering how much he had forgotten.

bud-powell

 

Melania

That fifth photo in the Melania GQ spread completely bewilders me. She’s in the jet’s cockpit, yes, but what the hell is she wearing? It looks like something she copped from Isaac Hayes’ wardrobe. Wattstax. Though I don’t think Donald was there. The headgear, though, I saw in Flash Gordon. No, Flesh Gordon. That was it.

Who was running that photo session, Ed Wood?

Huntington Beach

What an astonishing photo this is. Perfect.

Huntington Beach riot, 2013. No idea who took the shot.

Maybe it’s the blurred movement. Or the figures in the middle, in a circle. Or maybe it’s the kid up on the bricks, pushing. The kid with no shirt, pulling. The kid with his back turned, seeing something. The kids with their faces covered, who won’t be arrested. The guy in the back, filming. Maybe it’s the swirl of violence, the lawlessness. Maybe it’s that ridiculous little fire hydrant doing absolutely nothing, nearly ruining the composition. Or helping it. Maybe it’s the American flag trunks. Or maybe it’s the futile STOP.

Elvin Jones

Incredibly great photo of Elvin Jones. The photographer had quite an eye, and would have crouched low on the stage looking up and waiting for the exact moment when Elvin’s face appeared between tom and cymbal. This is instantly one of my favorite jazz photographs ever (is it off an LP jacket, have I seen it before?), and thanks to drummer Fritz Wise for passing it along.

I’ve always thought the best jazz shots–hell, the bet shots of any music–came when the photographer got in groove with the players, and for a moment it’s like the photographer is one with the band, snapping pictures in perfect time.

Elvin Jones. No idea who took the shot, but thanks to drummer Fritz Wise for posting it.

The great Elvin Jones, though that flat monosyllabic great doesn’t quite do the man justice. You need polysyllables in polyrhythmic meter to describe Elvin Jones, but that’s poetry, and this is a caption.  No idea who took the shot, if anyone knows please pass it along so I can credit.

Lester Young

My pal Vince Meghrouni–a fine saxman himself–posted this picture of Lester Young. Vince loves Lester Young. Loves Dexter Gordon more, probably, but he loves Lester Young. It’s a haunting photograph, he’s so thin, so gaunt, really, playing for nobody but the photographer in a bare room. Just the bed, a phone, a clarinet, and a saxophonist. I asked Vince if he knew the when and where of the thing. He said sorry, he didn’t. Just one of the things plucked from Google. He just dug that it was Prez. Others liked that it was Prez too. Prez! they said. The President! Imagine that….you’ve been dead for more than half a century and people see your picture and say, simply, Prez! A nickname of a nickname transcending generations.

But it’s such a sad, haunting shot: Beautiful and sad. It looked to me to be near the end.

Lester Young--Jazz City

I dug around the web for a while, looking for answers. Turns out the photo is by Dennis Stock from a single volume collection entitled Jazz Street. You can find it but it’ll cost you, it’s a rare one. Stock was one of those post-war photographers, that New York City feel, film noir, far too early in the morning. It seemed a harder time then, at least in the cities, far from the suburbs, and photography bore that out, black and whites of blacks and whites wreathed in smoke, thinking, listening, worrying, angry. Mr. Stock shot all these jazz pics in the late 50’s, from 1957 onward. Prez died in ’59, and looked decidedly less frail in the Sound of Jazz in 1957 (playing that perfect solo for Billie Holiday) than he does here, so this is probably closer to the end, maybe 1959. He was suffering from cirrhosis (as you can plainly tell here). I heard that he lived in a flat across from one of the jazz clubs (the Vanguard?) and rarely emerged, essentially drinking himself to death. His last few official recordings from this time sound a little frail, but they still swing. I’ve got a couple live things, board recordings I think, that sound sloppy drunk, though I like them anyway.  He did a couple gigs here and there those last couple years, but wasn’t getting out of his room much.  Drink, illness, maybe mental illness, maybe all three. He made a last stand in Paris for a couple weeks in late ’59, nearly drinking himself to death in the process and probably breaking a lot of jazz lover’s hearts with that sound still coming out of that body. Dexter Gordon seems to nail that as Dale Turner in Round Midnight. Lester Young returned to NYC and did finally drink himself to death a couple days later. He was forty nine years old. They buried him somewhere in Brooklyn. It must have been one helluva funeral. Everybody would have been there, telling stories, remembering better times. Mingus wrote “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” soon afterward. A ridiculous hat, a beautiful tune. You can’t see the hat in this picture. You can’t hear the saxophone, either, but you can imagine it. You look, and if you know Lester Young’s music, your mind fills in the sound for you. It fills that whole room, a thin little man, a bed, bare walls and all that saxophone. A black and white photo and the lightest, most gorgeous tone you’ve ever heard. Perfection.

“Fine and Mellow” from The Sound of Jazz, 1957.

(Lester Young takes his solo about two minutes in. Within two years, both he and Billie Holiday were gone.)

Jimi Hendrix at the Hollywood Bowl, 1968

Is it love, baby, or is it just ablution?

Soon afterward they filled in the reflecting pool with tables and rich people. Once I was sitting right about where that guy is standing arms outstretched. He was tripping his hippie brains out, I was drinking two buck chuck and trying to hide the bottle. Our realities began to merge in vivid dreamy hallucinations. A whole herd of  gorgeous wild women wearing nothing but feathers were dancing around me in an endless circle, shaking everything shakeable. Pinch me, I said to my wife, I must be dreaming. She hit me. The vision passed as suddenly as it began and the girls disappeared stage right. The band was still there, shitty as before. I hated the band. They were bumming my trip. Suddenly the vision returned, the women walking across what once was water, glittering, swaying, undulating, their boas like trails that lingered pink and gold. The men at their feet were about as chakra’d as a man can be in mixed company. Then the vision passed again, stage left, for good.  The shitty band remained making their shitty music and totally ruining my trip. No Hendrix for us. That is where me and the wet hippie with the outstretched arms parted. He got an encore, maybe two, and then Wild Thing. I got Never Gonna Let You Go.

Well, as Jack Benny once said. Well.