Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Photographer William Claxton, sometimes called Clax, was a major force in record album jackets--fashion and advertising as well--for 50 years. Some of his covers for Pacific Jazz and a fine reminiscence he wrote were recently featured at Steven Cerra's splendid Jazz Profiles blog, here. I wrote my own small tribute, with some of Claxton's classic photographs as visuals.
I see a forest of umbrellas dance
in the second-line strut of many brass bands.
Alto spiked deep in his arm, Art trudges
up the steep street: Jazz's
weary junkie Sisyphus. Click.
In the silent bell for Round Seven,
Red hears Heaven's
black keys instead: click.
Chet and... what was her name?
... curled into their separate dreams,
and yet they clicked.
Monk grinned from the trolley.
Sonny leaned like a Joshua tree.
Ornette stubbornly stared, and I clicked.
I shot from the Haig to Bourbon Street,
to Manhattan's top salons, a fete
of photos. And each shot clicked.
I was West Coast most, I was
the Lighthouse and Pacific Jazz.
My lenses decried the cliques
invented by fool critics;
I worked both coasts, and in my Rolleiflex
the twain met, clickety-click,
like the U.P. tracks. Five decades.
A million photos. Nikon, icons; heads
of the state of Jazz, heavenly bodies. Click.
Click. Click. Paul goofing at the piano, Zoot
rapt in sax and smoke, and always Chet--
his hair, his thousand-yard stare, clicks-
distant ghost. I snapped Trane
stepping up and Dinah getting down,
Cannon at the Apollo and Pres on the edge... click,
gone. Shadows and light, all of my days.
But at night I worked cameraless, eyes
trapping an image with each blink:
Billie bright-eyed and Max suddenly still,
Gerry's big horn at rest, and all
of Ben focussed, and Duke... beyond. Blink,
blink, a photographer's dream,
eye am the REM cam
till I wake back
in Shorty's world, me, Clax,
still alive and clicking.