Jazz Links


William Claxton (1927-2008) is perhaps the greatest photographer of the jazz scene. He began his career shooting jazz record cover art. He shot all the covers for the Pacific Jazz Records and soon all the major record companies were using him.

His photography has been widely exhibited in galleries around the world. His iconic images of Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, and many others reflect his eminence among photographers of jazz music. He is author of several books. In 1960, William Claxton and the noted German musicologist Joachim Berendt (The Jazz Book, 1953) traveled the United States on the trail of jazz music. The result of their collaboration was an amazing collection of photographs and recordings of legendary jazz artists published in the book “Jazzlife”. In 2003 a huge reedition (11.5 x 16 inch, 696 pages) of this important collection was published. A statement by William Claxton:

“That’s where jazz and photography have always come together for me. They’re alike in their improvisation and their spontaneousness. They happen at the same moment that you’re hearing something and you are seeing something, and you record it and it’s frozen forever.”

“As Bill Evans hunches over the keyboard there is so little to be seen – ear, hair, neck, a glimpse of spectacles – that he shouldn’t be recognisable but, like the lightest touch of his fingers on the keys, these few details are enough to identify him immediately and reveal the admonition at the heart of his technique: it takes more strength to caress the keys that to pound them.”

Written by Geoff Dyer in the “Guardian”, 2008: jazz photographer William Claxton, who has died aged 80, helped turn stars into legends with the improvised glamour of his shots.

Bill Evans   © William Claxton
Bill Evans   © William Claxton