Two wonderful books have just been published by Taschen, known for its beautiful coffee table productions.
The first, Jazz Life, chronicles a three month trip in 1960 across America by German jazz journalist and record producer Joachim Berendt and photographer William Claxton. Berendt wanted to experience jazz and American culture first hand and Claxton set up the tour, from New York City, through the South, and the LA scene, visiting musical capitals like New York City, Memphis, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Claxton’s memorable photos capture more than just the jazz scene at the dawn of the Civil Rights era. Like Robert Frank‘s classic 1955 photo journey, it is a view of America and its culture that reveals more than any history book could.
The other book, Jazz. New York in the Roaring Twenties, is an illustrated history of the jazz exodus from New Orleans to Chicago to New York. It tells the story of how jazz musicians migrated from the South to Chicago during World War I, escaping Jim Crow and answering the need of the war effort on the production lines. The illustrations are by Robert Nippoldt, with text by Hans Jürgen Schaal. This book was called “one of the most beautiful books of Europe” when it first appeared in Germany in 2008.
Both publications are unusual and must-haves for anybody interested in jazz music and American history. They offer revealing snapshots of America’s great art form and a lot of history too.
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