A jazz visual diary | photographs by Herman Leonard

The Metronome All Stars (Eddie Safranski, Billy Bauer, Charlie "Bird" Parker, Lennie Tristano)
New York City, 1949

Metronome All-Stars - Overtime (1949)


"It was my project to make a visual diary of what I heard. To make people see the way
the music sounded.
I wanted to do with light what artists do with a line sketch: show the whole character."


Miles Davis, New York City, 1949

Chet Baker, New York City, 1955                                   Dexter Gordon, Royal Roost, New York City, 1948

Chet Baker - Long Ago and Far Away (1955)

Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Stitt , New York, 1953


Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy was a great human being. He had such empathy for everybody and for the suffering and all that..he was amazing, aside from being an incredible musician. Just an hour ago, I was listening to a Getz/Dizzy tune, and the ideas that he had, the variations that he would give to a standard was absolutely amazing. Dizzy was a comedian, a showman, a musician, a humanitarian…He was a member of the Bahai faith, and they believe that everyone is a brother, and he practiced this, he really actively practiced it, all the way through. He was a good, fine gentleman. Dizzy and I got very close in the later years, we were not too close in the early years, and that was a matter of geography really, but we got along fine in the beginning, but in the later years, we seemed to connect in the same places at the same time. We used to hang out a lot, played a lot of backgammon….he was a lousy backgammon player. I had to let him win all the time. But funny, terrific guy.  (Herman Leonard, interview) 



Nat King Cole Quartet, NYC, New York, 1949

I was exposed to a lot of classical music. My father and mother were both very interested in music, but they were always playing Beethoven and Bach and that sort of thing. One day I had the radio on and I heard a Louis Jordan thing, and I heard an early Nat Cole song, “Straighten Up and Fly Right”. When I heard the rhythms, it made me feel good, and I said, “hey, this is happy music, feet tapping music!” That’s how I got interested in that form of music. (Herman Leonard, interview) 

Nat King Cole - Straighten Up And Fly Right

Duke Ellington, Paris, 1960

Herman Leonard, Palm Court Cafe, New Orleans, 1996

Basin Street Cafe, NYC, New York, 1950



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