Jazz Lives: The Photographs of Lee Friedlander and Milt Hinton
March 28–July 13, 2014
With over 80 photographs and live performances in the galleries, the exhibition celebrates the musical form
The Yale University Art Gallery’s exhibition Jazz Lives: The Photographs of Lee Friedlander and Milt Hinton provides an intimate view into the world of jazz from two distinct perspectives: that of Lee Friedlander (born 1934), a preeminent American photographer with an affinity for the uniquely American musical form, and that of Milt Hinton (1910–2000), a celebrated bassist who documented the jazz scene with his camera. Organized by Yale University students, the exhibition features 88 photographs and runs from April 4 through September 7, 2014. Live performances in the galleries by student, faculty, and community musicians animate the art.
The photographs presented in Jazz Lives capture jazz as it was, and still is, lived—through its performances, people, and places. Lee Friedlander’s carefully composed photographs, which date from 1957 to 1982, focus on jazz in New Orleans, where music pervades all aspects of life. Friedlander first visited New Orleans in 1957, the same year that William Russell and Richard Allen, two pioneering jazz historians, began work on Tulane University’s Archive of New Orleans Jazz, a collection of oral histories, field recordings, and artifacts that serves as a record of the city’s evolving music scene and its musicians. Friedlander accompanyied Russell and Allen on their visits to legendary local musicians, documenting their subjects. The artist made repeated visits to the city over the next several decades to photograph the people, performances, and parades of the birthplace of jazz.
By contrast, Hinton’s photographs, taken from 1938 to 1981, are spontaneous views of the changing jazz scene from the perspective of an insider. In 1936 Hinton joined the big band of Cab Calloway, traveling across the country. He later settled in Queens and continued to play, largely in recording studios, which gave him and other jazz musicians a steady source of employment as well as mainstream reception on radio, television, and recorded albums. His talent and stylistic versatility gave him the opportunity to perform and record jazz with such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday. Hinton took his camera everywhere, documenting his life story—one that mirrors the history of jazz.
Jazz Lives was curated by three Yale University undergraduates: Alexander Dubovoy, CC ’16, William Gearty, BR ’14, and Nina Wexelblatt, BR ’14. Gearty and Dubovoy are president and vice president, respectively, of the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective, and Wexelblatt is a literature major with an interest in art history and music. “As a jazz pianist and singer,” says Dubovoy, “I have been deeply involved with the musical community on campus. Student curating this exhibition has been an incredible experience.” Wexelblatt agrees: “As student curators, we’ve been given unparalleled access to so many facets of the life of a museum, from selecting works to researching and writing exhibition text to overseeing the installation.”
The History of Jazz
Through its varied photographs, Jazz Lives documents the development of this musical and cultural experience. From its earliest days, jazz drew upon diverse influences: the traditional music of Africa, European classical music, gospel, Cajun music, and the blues. These blended in New Orleans in the beginning of the 20th century to create a new form that came to be known as Dixieland—joyous, buoyant dance music with a syncopated rhythm. This style, musically suited to celebrations, was adopted by the marching bands that composed the elaborate public parades for which New Orleans is known.
Over time, these loosely formed marching bands congealed into big bands capable of traveling as a unit, and jazz began to move up the Mississippi. By the 1920s, jazz had taken hold in Chicago and New York, where big bands played in performance halls before large audiences. To adapt to this new context, jazz evolved, becoming the popular, danceable form called swing. Swing bands comprised many different instruments—trumpets, trombones, saxophones, double bass, and drums—and performed set arrangements of popular tunes. These bands provided steady jobs for many musicians, as well as a stage for rising stars and big-band leaders.
As musicians formed smaller and more intimate ensembles on their own time, jazz developed further; without the pressure to play for crowds of dancers, the musicians were able to experiment with new sounds and more improvisation. In the 1940s, bebop emerged from this newfound stylistic freedom, focusing on variety and complexity. The venues changed as well: bebop was often played in intimate jazz clubs rather than big dance halls.
While the photographs on display offer a visual record of this history, jazz continues to evolve to this day, maintaining a spirit of improvisation and spontaneity.
Jazz Lives coincides with the Gallery’s publication of Playing for the Benefit of the Band: New Orleans Music Culture, a revised and expanded edition of Lee Friedlander’s 1992 monograph The Jazz People of New Orleans. The publication features over 200 photographs of such storied figures as Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson, Sweet Emma Barrett, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Johnny St. Cyr, and more. In addition, the book photographs of the city’s second-line parades, whose jubilant dancing has long been a defining aspect of New Orleans jazz culture.
All programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. For more detailed programming information, visit artgallery.yale.edu/calendar-upcoming-events.
Tuesday, June 17, 3:00 pm
Wednesday, April 30, 12:30 pm
“Milt Hinton: Images and Basslines”
Brian Torff, Professor of Music and Music Program Director, Fairfield University
Wednesday, September 3, 12:30 pm
“The Milt Hinton Photographic Collection: A Personal History”
David G. Berger and Holly Maxson, Codirectors, Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection
Film Screening and Lecture
Thursday, September 4, 4:00 pm
Keeping Time: The Life, Music, and Photographs of Milt Hinton
Thursday, September 4, 5:30 pm
“A Cinematic Excursion through the American Jazz Century”
Willie Ruff, Professor of Music and Director, Ellington Fellowship, Yale University
Sunday, April 6, 3:00 pm
Hans Bilger (bass), Eli Brown (trumpet), Alexander Dubovoy (piano), Harvey Xia (saxophone)
Sunday, April 13, 3:00 pm
Local middle-school and high-school students perform
ACES Educational Center for the Arts, The Foote School, Neighborhood Music School
Thursday, April 24, 5:30 pm
Craig Hartley Trio
Sunday, April 27, 3:00 pm
Open Jam Session with the Department of Jazz
Jonathan Allen (drums), Doug Perry (vibes), Samuel Suggs (bass)
Thursday, June 12, 5:30 pm
The Oscar Pettiford Project
Erik Friedlander (cello), Michael Blake (saxophone), Michael Sarin (drums), Chris Tordini (bass)
Exhibition organized by Yale University students under the direction of Pamela Franks, Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming, and Education and the Interim Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; Molleen Theodore, Assistant Curator of Programs; and Joshua Chuang, the former Richard Benson Associate Curator of Photography and Digital Media. Made possible by the Jane and Gerald Katcher Fund for Education; the John F. Wieland, Jr., B.A. 1988, Fund for Student Exhibitions; and the Nolen-Bradley Family Fund for Education.
The exhibition is indebted to David Berger and Holly Maxson, who maintain the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection.