Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Orleans 1960

In 1960, noted photographer William Claxton and German musicologist Joachim Berendt travelled the United States to document the American Art Form. The massive coffee table book JazzLife was published by Taschen and available in a regular edition which lists for $200 or a deluxe edition with prints and an audio CD for over $1000. It is a 700 page book and weighs over 17 pounds. Did I say coffee table book, the book itself might serve as a coffee table. Ok enough for the poor attempts at humor.

From JazzLife, Taschen has published the portion devoted to the New Orleans, New Orleans 1960, which is a more manageable 191 pages and has pertinent text portions to explain their trip across the United States and their experiences in the Crescent City and also Angola Penitentiary. It is dedicated to the many souls who lost their lives and the survivors who are rebuilding the city.

The selling point for this are the stunning photos of Claxton, who is probably best known for his iconic images of James Dean and Chet Baker. There are many striking images here, mostly of traditional jazz performers including the Eureka Brass Band, the Tuxedo Brass Band, the marvelous clarinet player George Lewis (and one of a marvelous one of Lewis' wife and Lewis 100 + year old mother), Nick LaRocca (who they recall was still claiming to have invented jazz), drummer Paul Barbarin, blues singer Lizzie Miles, trombonist Jim Robinson, Lewis Keppard and so many others. There are a couple images of a picnic in Slidell where Snooks Eaglin and band are seen playing on a truck bed, as well as a marvelous image of the Melvin Lastie Quintet (which included at the time drummer Charles ' Honeyboy' Otis), one of the few representations of modern jazz that they captured. A series of images here also follow a funeral to the cemetery and then back witnessing the second line exploding on the way back. The section on Angola includes marvelous images of Hoagman Maxey and Roosevelt Charles.

Text is presented in English, French and German and certainly helps the appreciation of the marvelous images. Certainly this will appeal to lovers of traditional jazz and the Cresent City.

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