jazz

2017 in Music Photos

Here is a selection of my year in music photography, leading off with an image from the Chicago Children's Choir that sums up 2017 in general. It's a pretty awesome privilege to be able to do this for a living.  

All photos © copyright 2017 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.

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. 

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. 

Chicago Jazz: A Photographer's View - Sept 23-Oct 25, 2015

One of the major highlights of 2015 - three of my photos were selected for inclusion in "Chicago Jazz: A Photographer's View" at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts.  My pictures were featured alongside some terrific images from around the city, and I had a chance to meet some photographers I've long admired - Stan Lee, Jasmine Kwon, Mark Sheldon, Farrad Ali, and Jack Siegel.  Many thanks to Bill Michel and the Logan Center for a great show and fun evening.  Below, my images from the Green Mill and performance shots of saxophonist Bernard Scavella and drummer Greg Artry.  

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

Sweet-singing Bruce Henry at Jazz Showcase

I was fortunate to photograph jazz singer Bruce Henry and his band at Jazz Showcase as part of a benefit evening in support of my friends at Sharing Notes. I've seen first-hand how the fine artists of Sharing Notes bring beautiful music to hospital patients of all ages - often in bedside performances - and it was great to see an enthusiastic audience come out to support this group on a snowy Monday night. From the stage, Bruce Henry's multi-octave tenor range belted out a high-energy set, backed by some great solos from each of his bandmates. More info on Bruce here.  More info on Sharing Notes here

On Jazz and Photography

I wish the Pharez Whitted Group had a standing gig at the Green Mill.  These guys played some of the hardest-hitting, soulful music I'd heard at the Mill all year.  From my seat down front, I had clean views of most of the band (no music stands!), so I snapped away.  

My affinity for jazz has grown in the last year alongside my approach to photography, and I believe the two are related.  I've discovered that, for me, photography is largely improvisational. I arrive at a shoot with an idea of what I want, but the final product is often a collaboration between the subject or client and myself.  The best images come from on-the-spot decisions, and I've learned to embrace the unknown or unexpected.  Jazz teaches me this lesson every time.   

Thanks to Pharez Whitted (trumpet), Eddie Bayard (sax), Lovell Bradford (keys), Jon Wood (bass), and Greg Artry (drums) for a weekend of killer music.  

Recent visits to the Green Mill

I'm pretty lucky to have one of the world's greatest jazz clubs three blocks away from my apartment.  Recently, I've seen saxophonist Victor Goines, who performs around the world with the Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; and accordion virtuoso Julien Labro and the Hot Club of Detroit.  Click through the gallery below for some views from my table.

Pharez Whitted at the Green Mill

Last Saturday night, I did two really awesome things. 1) I spent 3 hours listening to the great jazz pianist Willie Pickens at the Green Mill while he fired off Thelonious Monk tunes like it weren't nothing.  And 2) I met and photographed trumpeter Pharez Whitted, who is a very nice guy but will knock you over with trumpet solos.  I love photographing musicians.  They do their thing, I do mine, but I've never thought of them as mere entertainers.  There is art, there is the moment of creating music, and they've spent years learning how to be really good at it.  Photographing musicians is a privilege, and a task I am continually drawn to purely out of respect for their work and for a love of music.  

Pharez Whitted blows a mean trumpet at the Green Mill.

Pharez Whitted blows a mean trumpet at the Green Mill.

Up close with Patricia Barber

In the green room at intermission, legendary jazz pianist and vocalist Patricia Barber turns to me and asks, "How the f*** do I follow that?"  She was referring to a performance by percussionist Nicholas Reed of Marta Ptaszynska's "Space Model," a work for three sets of percussion instruments and recorded track.  Reed's seamless playing held the audience in rapt attention, igniting waves of applause.  Pianist Lisa Kaplan and cellist Nicholas Photinos, both of eighth blackbird, opened the show with the haunting "Habil-Sayagy" by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh.  The Pacifica Quartet followed with Elena Firsova's String Quartet No. 11, "Purgatorium," playing with its trademark precision and sensitivity.  I didn't have an answer to Barber's very serious question, other than to say, "I'm glad I don't have to."  

Barber was just as intense during her set as she was before it.  Sensing the enormity of the concert - the 10th anniversary of the new music series Contempo at the University of Chicago curated by Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer Shulamit Ran - Barber gave a performance both searing and deeply touching, poignant and beautiful.  Drummer Ari Hoenig, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and guitarist Gilad Hekselman provided ample solos and witty accompaniment.  But it was Barber who carried the full weight of the music.  I know this because I witnessed it from the front row, often dropping my camera from my eye just to watch for a minute.  It was an honor to photograph these artists, and to share for the briefest of moments the space they occupy.  

Patricia Barber: Completely awesome jazz pianist, vocalist, poet.

Patricia Barber: Completely awesome jazz pianist, vocalist, poet.

Patricia Barber rocking the Steinway.

Patricia Barber rocking the Steinway.

eighth blackbird's Lisa Kaplan (piano) and Nicholas Photinos (cello).

eighth blackbird's Lisa Kaplan (piano) and Nicholas Photinos (cello).

The Pacifica Quartet in the spotlight.

The Pacifica Quartet in the spotlight.

Percussionist Nicholas Reed 

Percussionist Nicholas Reed