Music

Supermoon and Symphonies: Early Highlights of 2018

If there's a way to sum up the start of 2018, it's that I photographed some pretty awesome and beautiful things. The year started off with a Supermoon in sub-zero temps. After the feeling returned to my fingers, I drove out to the Mississippi River to watch the bald eagles before concert season picked up again. I spent a dress rehearsal with the Lake Forest Symphony; covered the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra's final concert before its China tour; and shot the Chicago Philharmonic (with two pianos!). The Northwestern University Jazz Orchestra - with Victor Goines and Don Vappie - blew out the best Mardi Gras tunes north of New Orleans. I shot my first concert for the Harris Theater on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, and watched in amazement while pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard performed Ligeti and Beethoven before a rapt audience at the University of Chicago. Fulcrum Point New Music Project closed March with a rollicking performance of music by Wynton Marsalis. Now, on to spring! 

All photos © copyright 2018 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

2016: Celebrating a Big Year

This was a wild ride of a year. I shot tons of fabulous music. Philip Glass signed my photo of Philip Glass playing Philip Glass.  I covered Kurt Elling in the studio and created his latest batch of publicity portraits. Spektral Quartet's album "Serious Business," which includes my cover photo, was nominated for a Grammy. I sat next to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for 15 seconds. I gazed at the Milky Way from the tiny island of Islesford, Maine. And right in the middle of it all, I presented my jazz photography portfolio at the American Embassy in Vienna, Austria.  Thanks to all of you for being a part of a wonderful 2016! Enjoy this gallery of a few of my favorites. 

In the studio with Kurt Elling

Back in May, Kurt Elling and his band - pianist Stu Mindeman, bassist Clark Sommers, guitarist John McLean, and drummer Kendrick Scott - put down the tracks for "The Beautiful Day," Elling's first Christmas album. I was there to get a behind-the-scenes look, and I managed to avoid tripping over the cables or ruin any takes. Finally, after several months, the album is due out on Friday!

Photos © copyright 2016 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Christmas in May with Kurt Elling

What a thrill to hang with the incomparable Kurt Elling and his band last week. One of the best voices in jazz, a top-rate entertainer, and overall good guy.  He welcomed me into his dressing room at City Winery - fresh off his all-star performance at the White House for International Jazz Day - and let me fire away during two high-flying shows.  I joined Elling and company in the studio a few days later to document some of the recording of their upcoming holiday album.  Pictured: Kurt Elling, vocals; John McLean, guitar; Stu Mindeman, keys; Clark Sommers, bass; Kendrick Scott, drums.  

Photos © copyright 2016 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Spektral Quartet: Serious Business Album Release Party

Congratulations to the Spektral Quartet on throwing one helluva party to celebrate the release of Serious Business! Not every day do I walk into a job to see my photo blown up on the big screen. And it's not just any quartet that can make the audience sit on whoopie cushions in unison. I was honored to be a part of this project, and I cannot recommend this album enough.  Brilliantly recorded and performed, the music explores the concept of humor in classical (whatever that means) music.  Mayne Stage, Chicago, 1.29.16. 

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.  

Year in Review: Jazz Photos of 2015

Jazz and photography.  I love them both.  Here are my favorites from the year. 

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Serious Business with Spektral Quartet

I've followed the Spektral Quartet since I first saw them at the Empty Bottle in 2011 (a string quartet in a punk bar??). I was hooked. I wrote about them. I saw them perform a bunch of times. I came to photograph them in concert. But this is the coolest.  SQ's newest album, "Serious Business," features my cover photo. This is the quartet's fourth album, the first to feature their image, and my second album cover.  "Serious Business" is a disc of new and commissioned work (plus one very old joke) that explores the theme of humor in music. Since the days of "Abbey Road," quartets have been photographed walking to - who knows where? We tried the same thing, but Doyle kept falling. The album is due out in late January 2016, and you can catch the release concerts in Chicago on January 29 and 31.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Fourth Coast Ensemble: November 12, 2015

Throughout my work with the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, I've been introduced to one of Chicago's newest vocal quartets, Fourth Coast Ensemble. I've shot the individual members of 4CE in several master classes and coachings, and it was a pleasure to shoot their performance of music by Lita Grier and Ned Rorem at Ganz Hall with pianist Dana Brown.  Pictured: soprano Karen Ann Baron; mezzo-soprano Bridget Skaggs; tenor Zach Vanderburg; baritone Zach Angus.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 


Three days with the Music Institute of Chicago

In November, I had the great fortune of spending three days on three different campuses of the Music Institute of Chicago. From a roomful of musical toddlers to the New Horizons senior band, there was music from everyone, reminding me of my own days of Suzuki cello.  The enthusiastic students, teachers, MIC staff, and parents gave me a rich and memorable experience. The future of music is in good hands.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

A Great Distance: CD Launch Recital

One of my favorite recitals of 2015 came on November 6 when soprano Juliet Petrus and pianist Lydia Qiu gave the Chicago launch of their debut CD of beautiful and rarely performed Chinese art song.  I was thrilled to have shot the cover (my first album cover!) and additional artwork; check out the original photo. Our collaboration inspired me to do some of my best work of the year.  Juliet and Lydia gave an intimate and eloquent performance that night at PianoForte Chicago. As a bonus, the event featured two galleries of my work: some black-and-white studies of the staircase at the Art Institute where we did the cover shoot, and an exhibit of 15 scenes of Chicago cityscapes and new work from Chinatown. 

You can watch the entire recital here.  And you can buy A Great Distance on Amazon, CDbaby, or itunes.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Contempo Season Opener, October 27, 2015

The 51st season of the University of Chicago's Contempo series opened on October 27, 2015 with a program celebrating its recently retired artistic director, Shulamit Ran. The towering music was given probing and gutsy performances by U of C ensembles-in-residence Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird with mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley.  New artistic director Marta Ptaszyn'ska joined Ran on stage as longtime colleagues and friends.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Scenes from the 2015 Collaborative Works Festival

My third season shooting for the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) kicked off last week with the 2015 Collaborative Works Festival and four days of fantastic singing. It's an incredible privilege to have such close access to these singers; here are some of my favorite images.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.   

American Howl with Fulcrum Point

Scenes from a hard-hitting concert with Fulcrum Point at the Poetry Foundation.  Kevin Coval's between-the-eyes eloquence in his own work matched the tone Allen Ginsburg's "Howl," set to music by George Flynn. The otherwise intimate setting could barely contain the force of Jerome Kitzke's "Mad Coyote Madly Sings."  Pictured are Stephen Burns (trumpet/conductor), Kevin Coval (poet/narrator), Wagner Campos (clarinet), Jeremy Ruthrauff (sax), Kuang-Hao Huang (piano), Doug Perkins (percussion), Rika Seko (violin), Sophie Webber (cello), Collins Trier (bass), Juliet Petrus, Joelle Lamarre, and Brad Jungwirth (vocals).  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

My photo debut at Pritzker Pavilion

The Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park is a surprisingly large space when you're trying to cover every angle for a very large choir.  But it's a pretty big thrill to get the all-access wristband that allows you to shoot from the stage. Here are scenes from a nonstop 2-hour concert with the incredible Chicago Children's Choir, directed by Josephine Lee, with soprano Jonita Lattimore, saxophonist Oran Etkin, and drummer Makaya McCraven.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

THE NEWS

Easily one of the most memorable, high-energy performances I've shot this year.  Back in April, Fulcrum Point presented JacobTV's THE NEWS at Thalia Hall.  The nonstop "pop opera" is an 80-minute satire of mass media that is a poignant, comical, wacky, trippy, and altogether brilliant mash-up of rhythm, language, melodic fragments, and unreal vocals from Loire and Nora Fisher. Fulcrum Point's 9-piece band included Stephen Burns, Jim Gailloreto, Matt Wifler, Jeremy Ruthrauff, Andy Baker, Karl Montzka, Steve Roberts, Ian Ding, and Larry Kohut. 

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

 

Season finale with the Chicago Philharmonic

Part 2 of a two-day concert shoot, in which I shot the Chicago Philharmonic's season finale at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.  Maestro Scott Speck conducted vibrant performances of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and La Mer, and pianist Jorge Federico Osorio played with commanding power and intensity in De Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Ravel's Piano Concert for the Left Hand.  What a thrill to shoot this concert up close.  

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Cedille's 25th Anniversary Showcase

Part 1 of a two-concert day for me, in which I photograph four fantastic ensembles in two hours during the Cedille Records showcase performance at the Chicago Cultural Center.  Pictured: Patrice Michaels with bassist Larry Gray, violinist Jeff Yang, pianist Elizabeth Doyle; Fifth House Ensemble with Baladino; the Avalon Quartet performing music by Stacy Garrop; and Gaudete Brass Quintet. 

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.