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Music To Live By

I'm not quite sure when it was I fell in love with jazz. As a kid, we had almost none of it in the family record collection -- perhaps a few derivations left over from my Great Uncle Ralph's modest collection of the Ink Spots, or a muzak collection of Readers Digest records featuring pleasantly banal interpretations of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, etc.

When I was about ten, I do recall trying to convince my parents they should buy the Time-Life rerecorded works of the Swing Era, a re-creation of big band tunes from the 1930's. This was promoted through plastic records inserted into Mom's weekly Time Magazine, and became my first introduction to Benny Goodman, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and other icons of the era. We always collected these free little records in those days -- my favorite being a cut-out from my Dad's Remington electric razor packaging called "Music to Shave By," featuring songs with altered lyrics about shaving, and performed by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and the HiLos. Of course, my Dad's response to actually buying any of this was always, "I'll think about it," which loosely translated into "don't hold your breath."

Don't get me wrong, we always had music in the house, and if it wasn't my brother on the violin/piano, or my sister on her guitar, it was usually classical music on the hifi with some American folk standards thrown in, plus pop music by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. By high school, I rounded out this collection, adding the textures of Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and Grand Funk Railroad. I don't think my father ever really recovered from that. However, sometime in college, I took to jazz -- smooth jazz at first -- Grover Washington, Earl Klugh, George Benson. By the time I left home, I had discovered Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, and had the pleasure to personally know and work with Gene Harris when he was still in Boise. Though I'm still a bit put off by excessive atonal compositions, my collection of jazz far exceeds anything else I possess, leaning heavily in the direction of Miles, Trane, Gerald Wilson, and Shirley Horn.

Okay, so what's this got to do with photography? Well, I hope that the deep soulful "reach" I get when being around good jazz can be visually communicated through my photo work as well. I recently had the opportunity to work the Five Points Jazz Festival in Denver last weekend, and found I was thoroughly in the moment of hearing the music, feeling the performances flow from the artists, through the crowd and right into my camera -- it was like hours flew by with this great camaraderie of artists, jazz lovers and all sorts of people having fun in the wonderfully diverse setting of Five Points. Finding your own voice is as true in photography as it is for the musicians onstage. The craft is finding that quality and letting it channel through into the work. Working events like the festival is a much different experience than shooting landscapes. Where, landscapes feel more like a quiet spiritual contemplation with nature and God, shooting the festival is more like a frenetic dance with your fellow man, embracing all that is good in life, touching something shared, and realizing we really are all in this together. Makes me feel young.

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