Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of drummers Jo Jones, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones

February 12th, 2021

.

.

.
…..Jazz in Available Light, Illuminating the Jazz Greats from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s is one of the most impressive jazz photo books to be published in a long time. Featuring the brilliant photography of Veryl Oakland — much of which has never been published — it is also loaded with his often remarkable and always entertaining stories of his experience with his subjects.

…..With the gracious consent of Mr. Oakland — an active photojournalist who devoted nearly thirty years in search of the great jazz musicians — Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in this important book.

In this edition, Mr. Oakland’s photographs and stories feature drummers Jo Jones, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones in “A Succession of Battery Mates, Part One.”

 

.

.

All photographs copyright Veryl Oakland. All text excerpted from Jazz in Available Light, Illuminating the Jazz Greats from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s

.

You can read Mr. Oakland’s introduction to this series by clicking here

.

.

_____

.

.

 

A Succession of Battery Mates (Part One)

.

.

 

 

© Veryl Oakland

.

They All Came to See

Jo Jones

Monterey, California

.

…..He built an indelible name for himself during the 1930s and ‘40s as part of Count Basie’s All-American Rhythm Section. Unlike his fellow percussionists who relied heavily on the bass drum, Jo Jones pioneered the use of the ride cymbal and hi-hat cymbals for a lighter, more irresistible, beat. 

…..Long after leaving Basie’s orchestra, he still had a strong legion of admirers. 

…..Papa Jo was like a human magnet. Wherever he appeared, the crowds formed: not just the audience throngs, but insiders, working crew, fellow musicians, and most of all, other drummers. All of his peers – from such big band leaders as Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson, to bop drummers Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones – were members of the unofficial Jo Jones Fan Club.

 

…..The much-revered drum master Max Roach was one of those who was so taken with the artificer’s performances that he would occasionally – as a tribute to Jones – execute an entire drum solo using the hi-hat. No greater form of flattery than that.

…..In a cover story for the June/July 1990 issue of Drums & Drumming magazine by Robin Tolleson (reprinted in the book, Playing From The Heart), Roach described an event in Central Park celebrating the career of an ailing Gene Krupa during the 1973 Newport in New York Festival.

…..“It was a very moving event,” said Max. “But the guy who closed the show was Papa Jo…. (Jones)…ended the whole concert when he did this hi-hat piece. It was the first time I heard it done. He just came onstage with a hi-hat, a pair of sticks, and a stool, and it was beautiful. It just gave us all an idea that you can get the most out of the least. That was the perfect lesson.” 

….

…..I got to witness this same magnetism the first time I saw Jones performing in a quartet with pianist-organist Milt Buckner, guitarist Slim Gaillard, and bassist Slam Stewart at the 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival. 

…..Moving around behind the curtains when his name was announced, I couldn’t help but notice how practically everyone with a backstage pass stopped what they were doing. Fellow music professionals, festival staffers, and hangers-on all headed toward any side stage opening they could find to get a glimpse of the technician as he worked his special magic. 

…..He was exactly as advertised. You honestly couldn’t take your eyes off of him. 

.

© Veryl Oakland

 

Jonathan David Samuel (Jo, Papa Jo) Jones – drums  

Born: October 7, 1911

Died: September 3, 1985

 

 

.

.

Listen to Jo Jones playing drums on the 1959 recording of “Stompy Jones” from Side by Side, an album by Duke Ellington (piano) and Johnny Hodges (alto saxophone), and including Harry “Sweets” Edison (trumpet), Les Spann (guitar), and Al Hall (bass).

.

 

.

.

.

_____

.

.

© Veryl Oakland 

.

A Bond Like No Other

Art Blakey & Wayne Shorter

Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California

.

…..He was the fount. Up close, you saw his deep lines and furrows, the wrinkles and creases, his weathered, leathery hands: a testament to all he had endured as the powerful leader of one of jazz’s most popular and longest-running ensembles of the 20th century – Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. 

…..For nearly 40 years, he paved the way for a succession of highly talented, but – at the time – relatively unknown musicians. Considered one of jazz’s greatest drummers, Art Blakey was the instructor, The Jazz Messengers was his music incubator, and his fresh, young stallions became the exciting, hard-charging emissaries. 

…..Few jazz leaders understood better than Blakey that to make The Jazz Messengers shine, the band had to present a continuing flow of new material to the public. His breed kept answering the call by writing fresh compositions and arrangements. After paying their dues and gaining notoriety, these same messengers would inevitably become successful leaders/headliners of their own bands, delivering their own musical missives.

…..Saxophonist Wayne Shorter, today one of jazz’s greatest living composers and improvisers, got his first big break when he joined Blakey in 1959. To this day, his compositions from that period are considered among the group’s most masterful ever recorded.

…..It’s safe to say that every Jazz Messenger from the 1950s-on held the deepest respect for their first real boss, and would easily have written reams of praise on his behalf for helping them forge their own careers. Yet, one intimate photograph may suffice as the ultimate testimonial.

…..It was while covering the 1979 Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, some two decades removed from the time of their initial bond, that I spotted them. There, off in the distance, stood the two jazz giants conversing in a quiet setting well beyond the backstage area. I knew what was happening, the significance of it all. I could see the obvious bond.

…..As I made my way closer, I grabbed a telephoto lens and captured what was palpable: a clearly reverential Wayne Shorter, the former student, in awe of his master/tutor, Art Blakey. 

.

© Veryl Oakland

.

Arthur (Art, Bu) Blakey (Abdullah Ibn Buhaina) – drums, leader, educator

Born: October 11, 1919

Died: October 16, 1990

.

Wayne Shorter – tenor, soprano saxophones; composer 

Born: August 25, 1933

.

.

 

 

Listen to a 1961 recording of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (Blakey, saxophonist Wayne Shorter,  trumpeter Lee Morgan, pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jymie Merritt) play “The Freedom Rider”

.

.

.

_____

.

.

.

.
© Veryl Oakland

.

Penetratingly Precise

Elvin Jones

San Francisco and Berkeley, California

.

…..He had that presence, that overall bravura about him. Up close, one could not miss the chiseled look of Elvin Jones – his distinctive, pronounced facial lines and cheekbones, those penetrating eyes so focused and intense. You just knew this man was serious business. 

…..Photographing the high energy drummer was always a challenge, especially when he was performing in the darkest of jazz clubs. 

…..That was the quandary. On the one hand, I preferred the close confines and overall ambience of a club’s atmosphere – the mood and the intimacy of being right next to the action was unmatched. For me, that’s where Elvin was at his finest.   

…..But his flashing action, coupled with the club’s low lighting, definitely posed limitations for an available-light photographer in search of crisp results. Witnessing Elvin Jones in such an intimate setting was a blurring, mesmerizing experience – whether one was taking photographs or just plain watching. In those situations, I decided that about the best I could do was to selectively capture him in an expressive moment during any brief lull, if I could find one. 

…..The rest of the time when Elvin was just burning, I became a student. I sat there in those close quarters transfixed by his unique artistry, never quite understanding how – using the entire drum set, from ride cymbal all the way down to the bass drum – he could simultaneously weave together such a variety of contrasting rhythms in different meters and still make it so supremely swinging and coherent.

…..Beginning in the 1970s, there was a good reason why he and his groups became known as the “Elvin Jones Jazz Machine,” even recording under that name during part of his career. His was the most well-oiled, high performance jazz engine on the planet. There was never another drummer quite like him, one who so perfected the exhibition of polyrhythms, or cross-rhythms, while at the same time remaining complementary and supportive of his bandmates. 

…..To really appreciate – and to begin to understand – the uncanny work of Elvin Jones, I’d venture to use the cliché, “You had to be there.” But, even after studying the craftsman up close on numerous occasions, as well as trying to capture a meaningful shot of what I was seeing, I always left the scene floored, practically in disbelief at what I had just experienced. 

.

 

© Veryl Oakland

 

Elvin Ray Jones – drums, leader   

Born: September 9, 1927   

Died: May 18, 2004

 

.

.

Listen to a 1999 live recording of Elvin Jones playing “E.J.’s Blues,” including  Michael Brecker (saxophone), Antoine Roney (saxophone), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Darren Barret (trumpet), Carlos McKinney (piano) and Gene Perla (bass).

.

.

 

_____

.

.

.

Click here to read the edition featuring Stan Getz, Sun Ra and Carla Bley

Click here to read the edition featuring Art Pepper, Pat Martino and Joe Williams

Click here to read the edition featuring Yusef Lateef and Chet Baker

Click here to read the edition featuring Mal Waldron, Jackie McLean and Joe Henderson

Click here to read the edition featuring violinists Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, Zbigniew Seifert, and Leroy Jenkins

Click here to read the edition featuring Frank Morgan, Charles Lloyd/Michel Petrucciani and Emily Remler

Click here to read the edition featuring Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin

Click here to read the edition featuring Thelonious Monk, Paul Bley and Cecil Taylor

Click here to read the edition featuring drummers Jo Jones, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones

Click here to read the edition featuring drummers Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Tony Williams and Shelly Manne

Click here to read the edition featuring Monk Montgomery and the jazz musicians of Las Vegas

Click here to read the edition featuring Sarah Vaughan and Better Carter

Click here to read the edition featuring Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones and Toots Thielemans

.

.

.

All photographs copyright Veryl Oakland. All text and photographs excerpted with author’s permission from Jazz in Available Light, Illuminating the Jazz Greats from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s

.

You can read Mr. Oakland’s introduction to this series by clicking here

Visit his web page and Instagram

.
.
.

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo by Mel Levine/pinelife, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Lady Day and Prez” by Henry Wolstat

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
A very brief three-dot update…Where I’ve been, and an update on what is coming up on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

Photographer uncredited, but the photo was almost certainly taken by Chuck Stewart. Published by ABC/Impulse! Records.. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“And I’m Not Even Here” – a poem by Connie Johnson

Click here to read more poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Click here to read more interviews published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

Three poets and Sketches of Spain

Interview

IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

Review

Jason Innocent, on “3”, Abdullah Ibrahim’s latest album... Album reviews are rarely published on Jerry Jazz Musician, but Jason Innocent’s experience with the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s new recording captures the essence of this artist’s creative brilliance.

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #171

Dick Cavett/via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to being one of the greatest musicians of his generation, this Ohio native was an activist, leading “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group formed in the late 1960’s who “adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs (i.e. the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett [pictured] and Merv Griffin) in protest of the small number of Black musicians employed by networks and recording studios.” Who was he?

Click here to visit the Jazz History Quiz archive

Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive