Luis Olazábal, Music for Your Eyes


Luis Olazábal photo courtesy of Sandra Abousleiman @mypinkpanthetravels ©

Not every musician plays an instrument or writes music.
Luis Olazábal used his camera to make music with images. A dear colleague and arguably the premier performing arts photographer in South Florida, Luis died in his native Lima, Peru, on June 30 of pancreatic and liver cancer. He was 52.

Luis worked for notable clients, including the JVC Jazz Festival, Sony-BMG Music, Miami-Nice Jazz Festival, Miami International Jazz Fest, Miami Light Project, Tigertail Productions, and the adventurous Subtropics Festival. But since 2004, he was the official photographer of the Rhythm Foundation, a Miami Beach-based non-profit which presents music from around the world.

We shared many moments in the back rows of the North Beach Bandshell, talking about music and musicians while taking in all kinds of shows – from Haitian music and jazz to Cuban funk, classical, gospel, you name it. He was an informed and astute listener with a great eye. It made his photographs different.
His work illustrates many stories on this blog. The picture on the header is his.

When I told him about the idea behind the blog I was starting and asked him for an image for it, he said he would think about it, and later that day he sent me some photos. The one I chose was just the second or third I saw. He had some technical objections I didn’t understand and, frankly, he wasn’t crazy about it. But I loved it, so we agreed it would be a placeholder, just to get rolling. Of course, I had no intention of changing it. His photo was, and remains, a better statement about what this blog is about than any description I could write.

That’s the power of his work.

As it turns out, Luis didn’t plan on being a photographer, but, as he was fond of recalling, on a walk on Lincoln Road, he saw an exhibit of black & white images of jazz and blues performers by Herman Leonard. Those photos, he said, “made me realize exactly what I was meant to do. At that moment, I knew that music photography was my calling.” We were lucky he did.

In a town too often dazzled by loud, shiny, and inch-deep, Luis was unassuming, truly talented, and serious about his craft. You can enjoy more of his work here.

Some day we will have concerts at the Bandshell again, and then, I hope to be somewhere in the back rows, listening and taking notes — and I know it will hit me.

I will miss him.

 

 

The Shape of Jazz To Come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From left: Linda May Han Oh, Kris Davis, Terri Lyne Carrington, Aja Burrell Wood  Photo by Kelly Davidson

Women have been part of jazz from its beginning. It’s a rich but complicated story framed by limited opportunity mixed with unwritten rules, sexism, and benign neglect. None of this is surprising: Generous as jazz can be, as art, it both reflects and shapes the society that produces it. 

“We live in a patriarchal society, and that patriarchal thread has run through this music as well,” says Terri Lyne Carrington, drummer, and producer, as well as the artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

She founded the institute to explore a fundamental question: What would jazz sound like in a culture without patriarchy? The question has surfaced at a moment in which society seems open to an important set of conversations and institutional changes, says Farah Jasmine Griffin, a Columbia University professor who has written extensively about issues of race, gender, feminism, and cultural politics, and who sits on the institute’s advisory board.

“Oh, I don’t know that jazz is any worse on these issues than many other parts of our culture,” says Griffin, who is also the author of If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday, and collaborated with the late composer and pianist Geri Allen on theatrical projects. “But I’ve always felt that because jazz is so capacious and it’s always been historically at the forefront of social change and modeling social change, jazz would be a great place to try and do something like [the institute] to really kind of challenge our notions of gender norms.”

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Esperanza Spalding, Fred Hersch, Jazz and the Art of Solidarity

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch

Singer, bassist, and songwriter Esperanza Spalding and pianist and composer Fred Hersch are releasing a five-song EP recorded live at Village Vanguard, with all proceeds benefitting the Jazz Foundation of America. The performances, selected from a weekend run at the Vanguard in October 2018 and offered as rough mixes, with no edits, are a reminder of what jazz can be – creative, daring, subversive, and yes, fun. These are two superior artists working at a high level, often suggesting dancers changing roles on the fly, now leading, now following, challenging, and teasing each other while tiptoeing and turning on a ledge. The results are often spellbinding.

The EP will be sold exclusively for download through Bandcamp, with all proceeds benefitting the Jazz Foundation of America and the organization’s efforts to assist members of the jazz community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be available only through June for a minimum of $17, with additional donations encouraged on a pay-what-you-wish basis.
The EP can be purchased at https://esperanzaspaldingfredhersch.bandcamp.com

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