Elemental Music Adds Francis Wolff Book To Jazz Images Series


Lee Morgan (left) and Wayne Shorter are two of the musicians depicted in the book Jazz Images by Francis Wolff

(Photo: Francis Wolff)

The latest book in Elemental Musics Jazz Images series features the iconic photos of Francis Wolff (1907–’71).

Like Jazz Images by Jean-Pierre Leloir and Jazz Images by William Claxton—the first two publications in the series—Jazz Images by Francis Wolff is packaged in an 11.5-inch square hardcover edition. The book has 164 pages with more than 150 black-and-white images by the master photographer.

Each image is accompanied by specific information as to the circumstances in which the photo was taken, as well as captions identifying the musicians. The book includes a highly informative introduction by acclaimed writer/historian Ashley Kahn.

Born Jakob Franz Wolff in Berlin, he developed an early enthusiasm for jazz. After working as a commercial photographer in his home town, in 1939, Wolff fled Nazi Germany and settled in New York, where he reconnected with his childhood friend Alfred Lion, co-owner of the Blue Note record label. Eventually, Wolff joined Lion in running the company.

Wolff often shot photos in the environs of recording engineer Rudy Van Gelders fabled studio just outside of the city. Wolffs ability to remain unobtrusive (despite the use of flash) enabled him to portray artists in the purest moments of making recorded music—whether playing, conversing, writing, listening or even relaxing between takes. That element of spontaneity and immediacy embodies the essence of jazz.

The stunning images contained in the pages of Jazz Images by Francis Wolff vividly illustrate what made Wolff’s work so special. Highlights include a shot of DownBeat Hall of Fame inductee Hank Mobley cradling his horn as he listens to a playback; trumpeter Lee Morgan and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson playing face-to-face; and drummer Art Blakey squinting as he’s just about to strike the snare drum.

In other dramatic images, John Coltrane leans back in concentration as he coaxes transcendent art from his tenor saxophone; Miles Davis, seated with crossed legs, coolly blows into his trumpet; drummer Elvin Joneshand is wrapped around bassist Reggie Workmans shoulder as they share a laugh; and tenor saxophonists Dexter Gordon and Ike Quebec pore over session notes with Lion.

Nearly 50 years after Wolffs death, this book could introduce a new audience not only to his incredible visual artistry, but also to the music that these jazz icons recorded. DB

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