An ABC for Jazz Lovers

For me, the sign of a great jazz photographer is when you hear the music as you view the image. It’s almost as if the notes jump out and wrap themselves around you. After viewing these images by Pascal Kober, I closed the book and I literally heard the music stop. I realized that I had been hearing the pictures. It’s as if this collection contains images and sound. When I see Pascal’s images, I can feel his love for this music and his respect for these musicians. He somehow captures for his viewers the passion of this music, the soul of these performers and the magical energy of these festivals. As I look through these images, I experience so many feelings : joy, excitement, melancholic nostalgia (Miles and Toots), and hopefulness for the future (Les Enfants du Jazz). The experience of a jazz concert is ephemeral. The magical way the music, the atmosphere, the audience and the energy mix, only lasts for a few hours. The fact that it is only here for a little while adds to the magic. But, from Miles Davis’ intense gaze to Toots Thielemans’ transcendent smile, Pascal has managed with his images, to capture and freeze some of that magic and allow us to be able to experience it over and over again.

Marcus Miller

An ABC for Jazz Lovers

Front cover : Esperanza Spalding. Les Estivales Festival in Savoy, Château des ducs, Chambéry, France, 2013

Jazz as you’ve never seen it before !

An ABC for Jazz LoversWhether it‘s under spotlights or in the privacy of a dressing room, in rehearsal rooms or in the thick of major international tours, Pascal Kober’s pictures reveal a special way of looking at things, which also plays cleverly with words.

As a French photojournalist and member of the magazine Jazz Hot team, he has witnessed the developments of an extraordinarily rich and diverse century-old form of music for several decades now. Love of the blue note, emotion and complicity mark these commented slices of life, these letters and these faces, which sketch a thoroughly human ABC, thanks to the exceptionally close rapport he establishes with the musicians.

For those who love jazz and for those who think… they don’t (!), here is a compilation of little gems which are sure to enchant you…

Abécédaire amoureux du jazz (An ABC for Jazz Lovers)With a foreword by Marcus Miller, Miles Davis’s travelling companion in the 1980s, this book is also available in French version, Abécédaire amoureux du jazz. It accompanies and expands a photo exhibition of Pascal Kober’s works, produced by the Musée de l’Ancien Évêché in Grenoble (Isère, France).

See the book on the publisher’s website, in the English version (An ABC for Jazz Lovers)…

See the book on the publisher’s website, in the French version (Abécédaire amoureux du jazz)…

Buy the book on Amazon : here.

See below a short selection of 26 of my jazz portraits (amongst more than 200 published in the book!)

 

Randy Weston

Randy Weston
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2016
Photo : Pascal Kober

The African continent is the source of jazz.  In the late 1960s, Randy Weston was one of the first to bring African and American musicians together.  To do so, he opened a jazz club in Morocco, inviting gnawa musicians to share the stage with him. When he agreed to this portrait session, he was 90.  Hale and hearty (and with above all, a great ear!), Randy Weston once again charmed his audience at the concert. Hats off to you, Mr. Weston !

Chick Corea International Istanbul Jazz Festival, Turquie, 1996 Photo : Pascal Kober

Chick Corea
International Istanbul Jazz Festival, Turquie, 1996
Photo : Pascal Kober

In musicians’ jargon, the sound check is that moment when they fine-tune the balance of their instruments, helped by the two sound engineers.  The first stands opposite them, behind his mixing console, to adjust the “façades”, the front of the house.  The second, who is even more important for the artists, is discreetly installed on the stage to handle the sound from the feedback speakers, individually adjusted for each of the musicians. A fabulous place for a photographer who’s able to work backstage.

Esperanza Spalding Festival Les Estivales de Savoie, château des ducs de Chambéry, 2013 Photo : Pascal Kober

Esperanza Spalding
Festival Les Estivales de Savoie, château des ducs de Chambéry, 2013
Photo : Pascal Kober

I was introduced to Esperanza Spalding in 2009 when her first album, Junjo, which was virtually mainstream, appeared. These days, there’s something Frank Zappa’-like about her, and her concerts bellow with a wonderful youthful energy.  A great success with the public.  Less so among jazz critics. Personally, I like the cheeky daring of this composer, barely thirty years-old, with her childhood spent in the poor neighbourhoods of Portland, Oregon, and her top of the class career, who pokes fun of what the establishment thinks, and loves her instrument as much as she loves her audience.

Lisa Simone Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2016 Photo : Pascal Kober

Lisa Simone
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2016
Photo : Pascal Kober

I met her mother, Nina, in 1992, at a festival in Pointe-à-Pitre, French West Indies. Not easy, her mum… And not an easy life for Lisa, her daughter. A former member of the US Air Force, she instantly empathizes with her audience, and everyone she meets. On that particular day, she gave me two short photo sessions. The first in glamour mode, in a studio. The second here, more relaxed, for this John Lennon-style portrait. And I knew she adored him. The portrait… just like Lennon !

Sahib Shihab, Anthony Anelli et Benny Powell Festival Jazz Musiques, Grenoble, 1986 Photo : Pascal Kober

Sahib Shihab, Anthony Anelli et Benny Powell
Festival Jazz Musiques, Grenoble, 1986
Photo : Pascal Kober

These three great American soloists were the guests of the Regional Jazz Big Band conducted by André Anelli. Whose son would wind up the concert with a jam session ! What other form of music would have allowed such an encounter ? Wherever a jazz musician goes in the world, he knows he will be able to play in an impromptu way with any other jazz musician, if they agree on a set of chords and the key of a Great American Song Book standard. Jazz ? A shared culture…

Dee Dee Bridgewater, China Moses et… Elliott Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2010 Photo : Pascal Kober

Dee Dee Bridgewater, China Moses and… Elliott
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2010
Photo : Pascal Kober

I’ve been listening to Dee Dee for 30 years. From her revivals of Ella Fitzgerald standards to her jazz version of Carmen (yes, Bizet’s, rearranged by Ivan Jullien at the request of Jean-Paul Boutellier) in her lovely French Song Book with Louis Winsberg. Thirty years, and not one missed. Cantankerous people criticize her for her dynamism. For me, that’s just what I like about Dee Dee. With her gift of the gab. In cahoots with her daughter China, a great jazz singer. And with Elliott, her dog, sticking his tongue out at photographers !

Manhattan Transfer Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1987 Photo : Pascal Kober

Manhattan Transfer
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1987
Photo : Pascal Kober

One or two iconic bands have left their mark on the history of jazz, with the artistic identity of a group. Without musicians like Janis Siegel, Tim Hauser, Cheryl Bentyne and Alan Paul, the jazz audience would be reduced to next to nothing. Often scorned by specialized critics, Manhattan Transfer has managed to win over jazz buffs while carrying on the long tradition of vocal jazz bands and entertainment.

Bobby McFerrin Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2010 Photo : Pascal Kober

Bobby McFerrin
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2010
Photo : Pascal Kober

Happening. Yes, yes, it’s happening ! And even more often than you think. It even has something to do with art ! Criss-crossing the stage, the American singer Bobby McFerrin plays with the acoustics of the ancient theatre as he does with the audience which, delighted, returns his smiles and his joy at being there. The magic of old stones and the sense of spectacle of a musician who, if we need reminding, is best known for what has become a big hit : Don’t Worry, Be Happy ! We couldn’t put it better !

Lou Tavano Jazz Club de Grenoble, 2012 Photo : Pascal Kober

Lou Tavano
Jazz Club de Grenoble, 2012
Photo : Pascal Kober

She likes Bali, Russia, and classical music. And that’s enough for me to love her… “For those who don’t like jazz”… In 1992, this was a title I gave to an article which ended with : “Love of jazz is a path, with stages where it’s good to rest before tackling other adventures. A single thread : curiosity. Without which nothing has ever been possible. There are a thousand ways of loving jazz. Just as there are a thousand ways of loving. Period. Listen to Lou Tavano. Her latest album is titled For You

Michel Jules, Luiz Carlos de Paula et Stéphane Sarlin (trio Notenstock) invitent le bassiste Abraham Laboriel Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1993 Photo : Pascal Kober

Michel Jules, Luiz Carlos de Paula and Stéphane Sarlin (Notenstock trio)
with bassist Abraham Laboriel
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1993
Photo : Pascal Kober

The “jam” is always a competition of smiles ! Take a look at this after hours scene caught on board a barge moored on the embankment of the Rhône. The Mexican-born American bassist did not come to play a bit part. Abraham Laboriel likes trio music, and you can hear it. Even if the CD recorded on that particular day does not convey the magic of the live performance very well. It lacks the sweaty heat, the iced drinks, and the impression of hand-to-hand contact with the musicians. The energy is still there. Tremendous. Raw. Bearing witness to precious moments woven together with complicity and great outbursts of laughter.

Hermeto Pascoal Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1986 Photo : Pascal Kober

Hermeto Pascoal
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1986
Photo : Pascal Kober

A kaleidoscope with the colours of the Brazilian flag highlighted in red. That’s what it took to describe the whole colourful wealth of the offbeat compositions of that madman. An extraordinary musician capable of getting teapots, farmyard songs, children’s toys and football commentators to chime together ! A talent which the great Miles Davis called upon in 1970 to… whistle (!) with him on his Live-Evil album.

Quincy Jones dirigeant The Amazing Keystone Big Band Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2014 Photo : Pascal Kober

Quincy Jones with The Amazing Keystone Big Band
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2014
Photo : Pascal Kober

He “invented” Michael Jackson (and so many others!) and put them in the spotlight. Master Q is a driver of wisdom and knowledge. Listen to his Back in the Block album…It dates from 1989, but it’s a sheer delight, bringing together, among others, no less than : George Benson, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin, Prince, Sarah Vaughan and Joe Zawinul. The Amazing Keystone Big Band is on the right track…

Carla Bley Festival Jazz Musiques, Grenoble, 1988 Photo : Pascal Kober

Carla Bley
Festival Jazz Musiques, Grenoble, 1988
Photo : Pascal Kober

If I tell you that this is a female pianist, you will have recognized the person hiding behind that long blond hair, always in motion, which so prettily picks up the light. Carla Bley is up for anything in the world of jazz.

Chan Parker Aéroport d’Izmir, Turquie, 1995 Photo : Pascal Kober

Chan Parker
Aéroport d’Izmir, Turquie, 1995
Photo : Pascal Kober

In a few hours, “Bird’s” charming wife, Chan Parker, will be back in her country house not far from Paris. Every year, she was welcomed as a friend by Fùsun Levet-Bulut and his crew at the Kuşadası Jazz Festival. The airplane is a very common way of travel for musicians. But sometimes gigs follow one another with no respite or rest. I’ve got my own little theory about this : while on tour, the only place where a musician can feel at home, with his personal references and in the privacy of his own world, is… on stage.

Christian Vander (Magma) Salle des fêtes, Rombas, 1978 Photo : Pascal Kober

Christian Vander (Magma)
Salle des fêtes, Rombas, 1978
Photo : Pascal Kober

The career of a child of rock in the shadow of jazz. At the age of 14, everything started for me with a Louis Armstrong Good Book. And if that music did not (and happily!) give rise to a religious conversion, it triggered something. Then, nothing. Rock was there. The Magma and Weidorje groups certainly laid claim to Carl Orff and Stravinsky, as they did to John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. But for me, it was still a tad too early. Which would not stop me from working in the shadows to organize Magma concerts in my hometown.

Geri Allen Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1988 Photo : Pascal Kober

Geri Allen
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1988
Photo : Pascal Kober

At the heart of the note, her nose is down level with the piano strings. The piano has a unique architecture which at times allows us to capture those precious moments of concentration. Geri Allen’s music must have inspired me for this interpretation of the portrait which transforms the Roman stones of the ancient theatre into a light score. On that particular night, this beautiful woman was accompanying the saxophonist Buddy Collette, one of the greatest (and least well-known) jazz composers and musicians. Geri died on June 27, 2017 (she was 60), a few days after the publication of my ABC for Jazz Lovers.

Zacharie Abraham, Romain Pilon, Raphaële Atlan et Nicolas Charlier Jazz Club de Grenoble, 2016 Cyrille Aimée Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2015 Carmen Souza La Faïencerie, La Tronche, 2015 Agathe Iracema Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2013 Photos : Pascal Kober

Zacharie Abraham, Romain Pilon, Raphaële Atlan and Nicolas Charlier
Jazz Club de Grenoble, 2016
Cyrille Aimée
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2015
Carmen Souza
La Faïencerie, La Tronche, 2015
Agathe Iracema
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2013
Photos : Pascal Kober

Marcus Miller, Agathe Iracema et les stagiaires des ateliers musicaux Festival Les Enfants du jazz, Barcelonnette, 2013 Photo : Pascal Kober

Marcus Miller, Agathe Iracema and music workshop trainees
Festival Les Enfants du jazz, Barcelonnette, 2013
Photo : Pascal Kober

Is there any greater joy for a jazz musician than sharing part of his knowledge ? Marcus Miller had a field day with the trainees in the Festival’s music workshops. To the point of inviting them onto the main stage for a Come Together (yes, the Beatles!) anthology. Or how to create a wonderful show in two tempos, three movements, one or two rehearsals and… a dash of wit !

Terri Lyne Carrington Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1990 Photo : Pascal Kober

Terri Lyne Carrington
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1990
Photo : Pascal Kober

She had come to relax after her sound check with Stan Getz, whom she was then accompanying on the drums. A few minutes earlier, I had given her two small courtesy prints. Portraits made during a previous concert. She had delicately slipped them into the pages of a biography of Angela Davis. Nowadays, such scenes are more and more difficult to catch because of the hegemonic demands of the entourage of certain artists to control their image. Will it still be possible capture them in the future ? What will remain of the photographic memory of jazz if such practices were to develop further ?

François Théberge, Gil Lachenal et Olivier Destephany Vol Genève-Moscou, 1991 Photo : Pascal Kober

François Théberge, Gil Lachenal et Olivier Destephany
On a Geneva-Moscow flight, 1991
Photo : Pascal Kober

A flight of several hours. And what if people could make the most of that time by transforming the Airbus into a rehearsal room, to the astonishment and delight of the few passengers present ? This is what the musicians of the Regional Jazz Big Band did on the way to a tour in the Soviet Union, which passed through the great congress hall at the…Kremlin !

Hank Jones Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1994 Photo : Pascal Kober

Hank Jones
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1994
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2004
Photos : Pascal Kober

Cover of the magazine Jazz Hot n° 612, dated July-August 2004, with the pianist’s autograph.

Archie Shepp Jazz à Amiens, 1994 Photo : Pascal Kober

Archie Shepp
Jazz à Amiens, 1994
Photo : Pascal Kober

Archie Shepp, who is a saxophonist (first and foremost), spent time with the Gnawa musicians, but he is also an (excellent) singer. With Anthony Braxton and Robert Wyatt, he is among those (many) jazz musicians who never learnt music theory. So what ? The blues was in him. And that is enough to make me, a vocal jazz buff, happy. The human voice, is the most beautiful way into the blue note. So listen to Cecil McLorin and Dianne Reeves if you need convincing.

Toots Thielemans Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1994 Photo : Pascal Kober

Toots Thielemans
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1994
Photo : Pascal Kober

“With my little round belly, if I draw in a long note, my pants fall down !” Toots Thielemans bursts out laughing. This mischievous grandfather, born in Belgium in 1922, played with the greatest. And at more than 70, this gifted jack-of-all-trades, who has sadly recently left us, was more active than ever. On that particular day, he had given me an interview for the magazine Jazz Hot. A friendly discussion about this and that (very much, but I really mean very much) about Brazil and everything else, at times bawdy, with, as a backdrop, the music of the duo Gilberto Gil/Caetano Veloso.

Hiromi Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2011 Photo : Pascal Kober

Hiromi
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 2011
Photo : Pascal Kober

It’s not the easiest task to (almost) finish an ABC, even one for jazz lovers… At the letter X, I hesitate. Before finding in my dictionary the word xenophilia so well suited to jazz. Is there a single form of music in the world which has played with so much beauty and love of others ? The languid tones of the Brazilian bossa nova, the myriad rhythms of Africa, the legacy of European classical music, the ragas of India, and the French Songbook of Nougaro and Trenet transposed, everything tumbles into jazz. And that is precisely why people love it.

Pat Metheny Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1990 Photo : Pascal Kober

Pat Metheny
Festival Jazz à Vienne, 1990
Photo : Pascal Kober

Y as in Yes ! Many jazz musicians have agreed to stare into the dark depths of my lens, for 1/125th of a second. With his friend Jacques Prévert, the French photographer Robert Doisneau would have composed a poem. I don’t have that gift. To all those jazz musicians who have agreed to play the game, the entertainer of imagery simply wants to say : thanks ! A thousand thanks.

John McLaughlin Festival Nancy Jazz Pulsations, 1979 Photo : Pascal Kober

John McLaughlin
Festival Nancy Jazz Pulsations, 1979
Photo : Pascal Kober

One of my first jazz photos. Taken while I was gashing my fingers on a guitar, wondering how it was possible to play as fast as he did. My camera must have looked like a Zenit of Soviet origin (at that time the cheapest reflex), which did not stop a picture from that series from making the front page of the magazine Jazz Hot, in May 1994, in its original blurry form (!). Fifteen years later…

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