Jazz and photography have a lot in common. Both arts, at their peak, balance composition and spontaneity in perfect harmony. And each relays its messages through the unique lens of an artist’s individual personality and vision.
As a former DJ and Contributing Editor for Rangefinder Magazine, Paul Slaughter has spent more than four decades capturing the top musicians in jazz, both at the instant of sonic creation and in quieter moments offstage. Paul Slaughter Jazz Photographs 1969 to 2010 collects 81 of these images along with a handful of autographs and anecdotes.
To get a sense of Slaughter’s style, check out his shot of Miles Davis brooding backstage at the Monterey Jazz Festival (you’ll find it on page 17). Poised between shadow and light as he leans against a spiral metal staircase, hands stuffed casually in his pockets, Davis seems lost in thought and yet – master showman that he was – fully conscious of the image he’s projecting to us. Or see the dynamic pictures of tenor saxophone icons Sonny Rollins (on the cover) and Charles Lloyd, in which Slaughter uses motion blur to focus our eyes on his subject while suggesting the warping of time and space that great music brings.
In his introduction, Slaughter says, “When photographing a jazz musician in the fervor of performance, magic happens right before your eyes and ears.” And Lloyd, contributing a lovely foreword to the book, praises Slaughter’s gift of “observation without intrusion.” Sounds like a mutual admiration society to us. All we know is this book makes us want to listen to some cool tunes on a warm summer evening.