Monday, July 22, 2019

Jean-Pierre- Leloir - Photography and Jazz

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

I'm sure that the thought is by no means original to me, but almost since my awareness of and involvement with the music dating back now almost 60 years ago, I have viewed Jazz as a vehicle that lent itself well to other mediums of expression, in particular, photography.

Cover art for LPs [and later compact discs], magazine covers, posters, advertisements for concerts or club appearances, book jackets and museum exhibitions - all seemed to use photographs as a pathway into the music itself.

Photography both complimented and complemented Jazz to the point that in my mind, the two became inseparable.

The work of Bob Willoughby, Herman Leonard, Bill Gottlieb, Chuck Stewart, Lee Tanner, Herb Snitzer, William Claxton, Ray Avery, Ted Williams, Charles Peterson, Gjon Mili, Jim Marshall, Dennis Stock, Carol Reiff, Kathy Sloane, Robert Parent, Hugh Bell, Francis Wolff, Don Hunstein, Paul Hoeffler, Esmond Edwards, Milt Hinton, Jerry Stoll, Don Schlitten, Val Wilmer, and Veryl Oakland enhanced my Jazz experience by providing a visual foundation upon which to base it.

Because their work was used largely in European Jazz publications which I didn't have access to, the Jazz world photography of the following artist would be later discoveries in my Jazz Journey: Ole Brask, Jan Persson, Christian Rose, Guy Le Querrec, David Redfern, Jørgen Bo, Gregers Nielsen, Jesper Høm, Kirsten Malone, Lennart Steen, Frank Appelman, Pieter Boersma, Hans, Buter, Piter Doele, Ed van der Eisken, Toon Fey, Wouter van Gool, Boudewijn van Grevenbroek, Frans Hemelrijk, Dirk de Herder, Pieter Mazel, Cas Oorthuys, Eddy Posthuma de Boer, Kees Scherer, Nico van der Stam, Peter Verbruggen, Carel de Vogel, Ton van Wageningen, Joop Wiggers, and Hans de Wild.

I was particular taken with the work of French photographer Jean-Pierre Leloir and very pleased when a book of his work entitled Jazz Images was released in 2017. Here's more about that volume and an obituary which will provide you with a brief overview of Jean-Pierre's career.

“Photographer Jean-Pierre Leloir (1931-2010) got his first camera from a U.S. soldier the day that Paris was liberated from Nazi occupation. That act had profound consequences for the rest of Leloir's life. He would go on to make photography his profession, first publishing his work in Jazz Hot magazine in 1951. Some of Leloir's best-known images are of French singers, such as his celebrated portrait of Georges Brassens, Leo Ferre and Jacques Brel smoking and chatting around a table.

He also captured images of rock stars, but he held jazz musicians in high esteem throughout his life. In a moment of sweet irony, when the French government made him Chevalier de L'Ordre Des Arts et des Lettres in 2010, it similarly recognized bassist Ron Carter, one of his photographic subjects, in the same ceremony.

Two jazz enthusiasts in Spain have compiled Jazz Images (Elemental Music Records; available from Amazon), a 168-page coffee-table book of Leloir's color and black-and-white photos. Gerardo Canellas runs jazz clubs in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Buenos Aires, Argentina; Jordi Soley has collected, sold and distributed jazz records since 1980. Canellas and Soley's objective when choosing images for the book was to favor photographs of spontaneous moments that took place offstage. The result is a collection that nicely balances iconic images with intimate ones.

Among the artists depicted are Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Charles Lloyd, Nina Simon, Thelonious Monk and Sarah Vaughan. Most of the book is devoted to photos, but there is also a preface by Ashley Kahn and brief essays by three musicians whom Leloir photographed — Quincy Jones, Michel Legrand and Martial Solal.

In his essay, Quincy Jones celebrates the power of photography to preserve and recall history. He writes, "We need to get back to our roots and remember where we came from. I am so happy to see Leloir's work published, because behind each image is a story — one that needs to be told and appreciated."

One photo of Count Basie sitting at a makeshift desk says volumes about the transience and hard work of a bandleader's life. A double image of Donald Byrd reading a newspaper on a bench with a neon-lit club behind him captures the tenuousness of a life spent creating after dark.

In his piece, Martial Solal articulates the mixture of competence and respect that enabled the photographer to gain his subjects' trust: "During that period, Leloir was one of the very few photographers interested in the musicians, and he was certainly the only one who knew us by name. His manners and behavior always seemed very professional, highly precise and meticulous, and it was apparent that he loved what he was doing and admired his chosen models."

This admiration is powerfully conveyed in Leloir's photos of John Coltrane. Some depict the smartly attired saxophonist gazing to one side, dignified and pondering. Another from the same session captures him looking intently at his horn's mouthpiece. Another sequence finds the notoriously workaholic Coltrane rehearsing in his hotel room. And in one rare image the saxophonist gives a wide-open grin, showing the teeth that never made it into official portraits. No matter how many Coltrane albums you own, you're bound to come away from that photo feeling like you've learned something new about him. Now that's art.”

—Bill Meyer

Jean-Pierre Leloir: Photographer celebrated for his pictures of jazz and rock stars of the 1950s and '60s

Obituary - The Independent - March 28, 2011, Pierre Perrone

Outside his native France, the veteran photographer Jean-Pierre Leloir was best known for the concert and behind-the-scenes pictures he took of Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding when they visited Paris and appeared at the famed Olympia Theatre in 1966 and 1967.

These have featured on countless releases and reissues, been widely published and exhibited and demonstrate Leloir's amazing ability to immortalise performers and to capture candid moments in the dressing rooms and the corridors of the legendary Paris venue.

"I loved the people I photographed, so I made myself as available, yet as discreet as possible," he said. "I never wanted to be a paparazzi. I wanted them to forget my presence so I could catch those little unexpected moments."

In France, Leloir was also celebrated for his many photos of jazz musicians and singers, including a rare picture of Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré and Jacques Brel, the holy trinity of chanson, taken in January 1969.

"It was a real scoop. By sheer luck, I was the only photographer there that day. I never thought the photo would become as famous," he said of the image originally published on the cover of Rock & Folk, the music monthly he helped launch with the journalist Philippe Koechlin in 1966, first as a supplement to Jazz Hot, then as a stand-alone publication.

Born in Paris in 1931, Leloir was passionate about music from his early teens and started taking pictures as a 20-year-old. For publications like Jazz Magazine, L'Express and Le Nouvel Observateur, he photographed many of the jazz musicians who visited Paris or made the French capital their home in the 1950s and '60s, including Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Sydney Bechet, Art Blakey, Donald Byrd, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus and Lester Young.

He also documented the golden age of chanson and the "yéyé" era and shot memorable studio and concert photographs of Edith Piaf, Johnny Hallyday, and Yves Montand, among many others. He seemed to have a special empathy with visiting blues, rock and soul musicians from the US and the UK and photographed the likes of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa (Leloir's striking black and white portrait of the guitarist in 1976 is included in the Best of Zappa compilation Strictly Commercial). He also covered the Isle of Wight festival in 1969 and the Orange rock festival, a landmark event in France, in 1975.

Leloir also photographed plays and exhibitions, including Jean Vilar's productions for the Théâtre National Populaire. He enjoyed snapping street life in the US and South American cities he visited and the landscapes of the Corrèze area of France where he had a second home.

The mustachioed Leloir smoked a pipe and had the phlegmatic demeanour of a British gentleman. He knew how to put his subjects at ease in the more formal environment of a studio, playing Vivaldi in the background to help Brel relax, for instance. "His moustache is so fascinating that you end up staring at it and forgetting all about the camera," the Belgian singer said of the photographer, who became a lifelong friend and took most of the pictures that adorned the covers of his records. The many books of Leloir's work include Brel Par Leloir (2008), Johnny Sixties, a collection of his Hallyday photos (2009), Instants De Grâce and Portraits Jazz.

In the mid-1990s, Leloir lost the use of his right eye, which restricted his opportunities. Last January, he was made Chevalier de L'Ordre Des Arts et des Lettres and used the occasion to lecture the culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand about the rights of photographers in the digital age. "It was a great honour, the cherry on a beautiful cake," he nevertheless said of the ceremony, where he met up with the American jazz double bassist Ron Carter, whom he had photographed several times, and who was also honoured that day. "That's what I call the lottery of life," Leloir mused about a life that had been full of such coincidences.

Jean-Pierre Leloir, photographer: born Paris 27 June 1931; married (two daughters); died Paris 20 December 2010.

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