Jazz, parallel to photography, is my second big passion in life. In some ways, I perceive jazz and photography to be siblings, but this should be a theme for a separate story.
When I wrote a few days ago about the shadows and Rayographs, it was just a superficial treatment of a subject, which has much more to offer to an inquisitive art lover.
The making of camera-less photographs is as old as photography itself. The golden period of photograms (this is how most photographers were calling them) starts around 1920 and ends before 1946, when Laszlo Moholy-Nagy died.
In 1941 Henri Matisse was diagnosed with cancer, and had an operation. This gave him another lease of life, but weakened substantially his forces. He decided to let go the painting and sculpture, and concentrated on the cut outs – often making them in his bed, or bound to a wheelchair. In 1946 he put together an album of twenty collages, and presented them as a book of printed plates, titled: “Jazz”. Matisse’s friend and editor Efstratios Teriade executed the work in only 270 copies. Teriade was also publishing an art magazine called “Verve”, where he already presented some of Matisse’s early collage works.
You will have a chance to read about the importance of Matisse’s “Jazz” elsewhere. What has struck a note with me, was the coincidence of timing between the photograms an the cut outs. The coincidence does not end here. Although I have not found any proof of the direct link between Teriade, Matisse and Norman Granz, the latter has founded in 1956 a jazz record label called “Verve”. The first release, was a double LP of Ella Fitzgerald, singing the “Cole Porter Songbook”.
The record had become an instant success. Ella Fitzgerald, dubbed as the “Voice of an Angel” is one of my favourite singers, although, I prefer the middle period of her career, before she jumped into scat , and before her voice acquired a somewhat higher pitch. This is my preferred track from this album – not too slow, not too fast, and without the annoying company of strings.
Somehow, Ella was so superb as singer, that her songs I like most, are ones, where she sung almost alone, just with a discrete company of one instrument. An example, is “In a Sentimental Mood” , from the Duke Ellington Song Book, released on “Verve” in 1957, the year I was born.
Ella’s sweet voice has found its apogee (in my opinion) in a less popular LP issued in 1960 as “Let No Man Write My Epitaph”, and subsequently labeled “The Intimate Ella”. She recorded it with the piano only company of Paul Smith. The songs evolve in slow tempos, and spread melancholic poetry at its best.
Although some other tracks are musically more interesting, there is one that I treasure the most for its lyrics – an ever ready remedy for setbacks, and a great encouragement to never give up in life.