Jazz Photoblogging

I love photographing musicians — probably because I’m a musician myself, and it’s a wonderful challenge to capture some of the immediacy of live performance on film.

There have been two times in my life when I was really active in music photography.  Once in the mid-1980s when I was living in India, and had the chance to get pictures of many of the Subcontinent’s greatest artists in concert, in rehearsal, and in private.  And once in the mid-1970s when I was still in high school and had access to the school darkroom…and I took the Miranda SLR my father had given me to dozens of jazz concerts.

I had made a firm decision that I would not use flash; I did not wish to disturb the musicians by popping flashbulbs while they played. So I used high-speed film, underexposed and overdeveloped (a procedure known as “pushing” – I used Tri-X, pushed to ASA 1600, for all you b&w old-timers out there).

I got some good results, too. Here are a few images I’m particularly happy with:


The Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop, Jazz Workshop, Boston, 1974

Charles Mingus and George Adams

Charles Mingus

Mingus, George Adams, Jack Walrath. This was the band that recorded the “Changes” albums; what a terrific group of players! I idolized Mingus and still regard him as one of the greatest American composers ever.

Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Jazz Workshop, Boston, 1975



Sun Ra himself; the only man in the world with a passport declaring his birthplace as “Saturn.” (TRUE) Someday I will blog my own Sun Ra stories, which are pretty funny.


Keith Jarrett, solo piano concert, Sanders Theater, Cambridge, MA, 1972


Shot with a 300 mm telephoto lens. I was very worried that Jarrett would hear the camera clicking; he was known to stop playing and cancel concerts if photographers bothered him. So I stayed far away! I heard him perform a few years ago with a trio, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.


Master drummer Bob Moses, Cambridge, MA 1972


This was also shot with a 300 mm telephoto lens. In those days the available long lenses simply wouldn’t let in very much light, so even with the film speed pushed to four times normal, there was no way I could use any but extremely slow shutter speeds, like, say, 1/4 of a second. A drummer moves a lot in that amount of time…but the image is effective because of the blurring.


Pianist McCoy Tyner, Jazz Workshop, Boston, 1975


I was able to talk with McCoy between sets and got a few pictures of him simply relaxing. He puts out a lot of energy when he plays; on the breaks he was extremely gracious.


Getting images like this was incredibly rewarding. I was climbing all over the place looking for angles, and these really came out well.

John McLaughlin, with the original Mahavishnu Orchestra — Orpheum Theater, Boston, 1972, and Boston Common, 1973.

I recently found these images and sent a few of them to McLaughlin’s management; turns out he has very few pictures from those days, and I was able to fill a gap in his documentation. That felt nice.

I will check.

Nice shot of the Arkestra.

Would you happen to have anymore shots of Ronnie Boykins?

Thanks 🙂

Ronnie Jr.

4 Oct 2009, 9:32pm
by ggoodman

these are marvelous. I saw McCoy for my first time that year. Please post more of these!


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