Book Review: The Blue Note Years — The Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff by Michael Cuscuna
He caught the last boat out of Nazi Germany in 1939, made it to America and re-connected with a childhood friend. They formed a record company that became one of the most famous in history. Along the way, he produced a camera and took hundreds of shots of musicians at work in the studio. Dozens (perhaps hundreds) of his images graced the album covers of some of the most famous jazz artists on record. Many photographers (I for one) yearn for such an opportunity. The photographs of Francis Wolff are legendary, iconic, and technically brilliant.
In the introduction to The Blue Note Years — The Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff, Herbie Hancock explains that Wolff's images were not posed. They were taken while the musicians were working. The lighting, staging, and composition are technically sound, clever, and innovative respectively. The results are remarkable and stand as a testimony to Wolff's talent and creativity.
Over two hundred black and white photographs are included in this amazing “photo noir” collection along with text detailing the history of Blue Note. The images range in size from one inch by one inch to full page size in this 11.5” X14.5” coffee-table book. An “Artist Index” with extended captions lists the one hundred nineteen musicians along with each of their images. Many of the names are expected, like Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, and Lee Morgan. Also included are some that may not be as well known and a few surprises, like a young George Benson, Gato Barbieri, Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrentine, Shirley Scott, and Joe Henderson (pictured at right).Continued on the next page