Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Clax


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.
Click.


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
flickering... blinking...



till I wake back
in Shorty's world, me, Clax,
still alive and clicking.

2 comments:

Alan Kurtz said...

Very nice. Even I, upon whom poetry is normally as lost as Amelia flying circles around Howland Island, dug this piece. Thanks!

I Witness said...

And backatcha. Generous words from a notoriously tough critic!