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The Bebop Shop : Jazz Gallery : Herb Snitzer - Gallery 1

Herb Snitzer is a former photographic journalist for LIFE, LOOK, TIME, FORTUNE and many other national magazines and newspapers. He was photography and then associate editor of the jazz magazine METRONOME. He currently has a studio in St. Petersburg, FL and works as a fine art photographer and writer.


Lester Young, Five Spot Cafe, NYC, 1958Lester Young, Five Spot Cafe, NYC, 1958
The lights from the Five Spot Cafe window threw a blanket of brightness onto a graying and dirty sidewalk as we waited for a living legend to appear. Lester Young would play that October, 1958 evening to a small but dedicated audience of less than 40 people. The Five Spot was already a well-known club for the Jazz Avant Garde: Monk, Mingus, Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Guiffre, Cecil Taylor and Omette Coleman all played their strange music there in those heady days of what we now consider the "Golden Era" of jazz; the years when the changeover from swing to bebop and beyond became complete. But Lester Young was special. He was considered then - still is - one of the greatest tenor saxophonists of all time.

On a personal level, he came to symbolize much more. He gave me my first taste of this music of freedom and sparked what would become my lifelong obsession with jazz. He stepped out of the darkness dressed in a long black coat. His pork- pie hat settled squarely on his head. His saxophone nestled comfortably under his arm. Later, by the window light of the cafe, I made the first of many photographs that evening. My first negative of a jazz musician was termed by jazz critic, Nat Hentoff, "The quintessential Lester Young photograph." Later that evening, he put the instrument to his lips and transported this young photographer to places within the stars. Places from which, I knew, I would never return. Lester Young died six months later on March 15, 1959. (Herb Snitzer) view larger image



Lester Young 1958
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Lester Young 1958

Benny GoodmanBenny Goodman
Benny Goodman on the balcony of his condo on the east side of New York City, circa 1960, looking more like a businessman than a swing musician. He was, in his time, one of the most recognizable musical figures throughout the world. With all due respect, I preferred the clarinetist Artie Shaw. (Herb Snitzer)

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Louis Armstrong, On the bus in Connecticut, 1960
Pops was, for me, the most caring and thoughtful of all the musicians I've known. I took a weekend bus trip with him and his band, and on that trip I made these images. He was a humane and giving person who put me at ease from the start. He loved to joke and that weekend was filled with humor, wisecracks, and some damn great music. The Star of David? It was a gift from the Kamovsky family in New Orleans when Pops was just a child. They cared for him, fed and clothed him. He wore the Star his entire life. He was the least prejudiced musician I ever knew. (Herb Snitzer)

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Louis Armstrong, On the bus in Connecticut, 1960

Count Basie, Recording Session, Roulette Records, 1960Count Basie, Recording Session, Roulette Records, 1960
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John Coltrane, Backstage Village Gate, NYC, 1961
A reflective John Coltrane backstage at The Village Gate. He came upon the jazz scene and transformed the music. He is to the saxophone what Louis Armstrong was to the trumpet. He died much too young in 1967. I always wondered what direction jazz would have taken had he lived twenty years longer. (Herb Snitzer)

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John Coltrane, Backstage Village Gate, NYC, 1961

John Coltrane, Intensely Trane, Village Gate, NYC, 1961John Coltrane, Intensely Trane, Village Gate, NYC, 1961
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John Coltrane & Eric Dolphy, The Village Gate, NYC, 1961
John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy came together for fleeting moments and the music was sublime. Here too there was tragedy as Eric Dolphy also died much too young. But both left a legacy of music that young musicians play all the time. They were both wonderful men and talented artists, accessible to this then young photo-journalist exploring the world of music.

John Coltrane is a seminal figure in American Jazz. This image was made at the famed Village Gate in Greenwich Village, New York City on a hot and muggy August evening, 1961. (Herb Snitzer)

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John Coltrane & Eric Dolphy, The Village Gate, NYC, 1961

John Coltrane & Eric Dolphy, 1961John Coltrane & Eric Dolphy, 1961
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Dizzy Gillespie, NYC, 1959
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Dizzy Gillespie, NYC, 1959

Thelonious Monk, United Nations, NYC, 1960Thelonious Monk, United Nations, NYC, 1960
Photographed just before he played at the United Nations in 1960. This was one of the few times Monk wore a suit; in deference to the U.N. He even took off his hat when he played - though he kept on his sunglasses. Monk and I used to play ping-pong. I always thought I'd win a game, but I never did. He was like a cat around the table: quick, alert, always in the present. When he made music he was both in the present and somewhere else. Going deeper and higher, right into the stars. (Herb Snitzer)

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Paul Gonsalves, Columbia Recording Studios, NYC, 1961
He is one of my favorite Ellington sidemen, as much for his reputation as his music. I never spoke to Gonsalves, too much in awe of all jazz musicians in those days, but I observed Paul and liked what I saw and felt. He seemed sometimes "straight ahead" and sometimes very "wacko." One incident stands out. The band was playing on Long Island and Gonsalves was late, his empty chair quite noticeable. As he hurriedly made his way to the stage, frantically getting his horn out of the case, Duke called out a tune that featured a Gonsalves solo at the break. Gonsalves was frantic, trying to get his horn together which he did at the very last moment. "Boy," I thought. "That ought to teach him to be late." But, from what I came to know, Paul was late a lot of the time. And Duke always tried to, and sometimes did, teach him a lesson. Paul became a celebrity after his 39 choruses played during the performance of "Diminuendo & Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. That incident put Duke Ellington's orchestra back on top of the jazz world. (Herb Snitzer)

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Paul Gonsalves, Columbia Recording Studios, NYC, 1961

Miles Davis, Newport Jazz Festival, 1990Miles Davis, Newport Jazz Festival, 1990
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Miles Davis, Boston 1988
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Miles Davis, Boston 1988

Benny Carter, Harvard University, 1988Benny Carter, Harvard University, 1988
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The Bebop Shop : Jazz Gallery : Herb Snitzer - Gallery 1
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