PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Brian O'Connor ( New book Brian O’Connor’s Images of Jazz )

Dexter Gordon, Knebworth, 1981
Photo from Brian O’Connor’s Images of Jazz

A new book – ‘Brian O’Connor’s Images of Jazz’ – is about to be published. The book contains more than 400 photographs of jazz musicians taken at more than 60 venues in London and across the UK between 1971 and 2016. The photos are accompanied by Brian O'Connor's insights and anecdotes. There is a Foreword by Peter Ind, and Liane Carroll has written a piece for the book on behalf of the National Jazz Archive. Brian O'Connor was interviewed by Sebastian:

LondonJazz News: What first got you into photographing jazz, and when ?

Brian O'Connor: I’ve always been interested in photography.  As far as music is concerned during the 50’s I was attracted to the rhythms of Latin America, Xavier Cugat etc.  Then a friend played my a recording of Sinatra singing ‘That Old Black Magics’ and I was hooked.  This was followed by the release of Jazz Samba, the Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd album combining jazz and Latin.  Wonderful.    Joining the Sinatra Music Society was the next step.  They are/were a broad church musically and introduced me to the Great American Songbook.  A revelation.  I became friendly with one of the founder member’s, Stan Britt, who later became a freelance jazz journalist.  Through him I became a devotee of the music.  When he started interviewing musicians, I began taking my camera along, combining two interest.  From there I started photographing gigs.  The rest, as they say, is history.

LJN: What was an early highlight / happy story?

B O'C: In the film ‘Round Midnight’ Dexter Gordon is at a bar, when the guy next to him collapses. Dexter's character says: "S'il vous plait, I would like to have the same thing he had."  I had the amazing experience of having lunch with Dexter in the late 80’s, accompanying Stan on another hard working stint.  Not only was Dexter excellent company, I ended up asking for the same as he had. Breakfast with Count Basie in his hotel room was another not to be forgotten moment.  Smoking a large cigar at the same time as tucking in, he could remember details of his career without much of a problem, but the names of no one. 

LJN:  What advice would you give to someone wanting to take photographs of performances of jazz?

B O'C: Be polite to one and all, including the audience, and keep a low profile. Respect the musicians.  Remember, they are at work.  Always obtain permission and if you can, get to know the music.  Don’t start machine gunning the shutter during a quiet solo.

LJN: What made you want to do a book?

B O'C: Despite the internet, kindle, and all the current marvellous ways of obtaining information and reading, you still to my mind can not beat holding a book.  Relaxing in an armchair with a cup of tea or coffee (or something stronger) browsing through a well produced book beats any digital device as the way to enjoy a quiet hour or two on a winter’s evening.  So, although my photos are up on the web, it’ll be nice to have a record of my work in an old fashioned printed book.  I was hoping to be able to call it, ‘Images of Jazz, the First Fifty Years’, but I think that might be pushing it.  I’m doing it after 45 whilst I can still type and press a shutter button.

LJN:  Who are the people who have helped you along the way?

B O'C: Stan Britt was the main man in the early days.  Accompanying him to gigs and interviews for over 20 years.  Through him I also became a regular at Ronnie Scott’s for over 30 years, and can’t thank the staff enough for the help they gave me, and the many laughs we had together.  Ricci, Jimmy, Moses.........  A great time.  Peter Ind of Bass and Treble Clef fame also provided valuable photographic opportunities, together with many other promoters.  Without their permission to photograph there would be no book. 

Liane Carroll in 2009
Photo from Brian O’Connor’s Images of Jazz


LJN: You have the National Jazz Archive involved. What is their role?

B O'C: Reaching my dotage and with a house full of jazz associated items there comes a time as to what happens when I stop snapping, or shuffle off this mortal coil.  Consequently a couple of years ago I bequeatged the entire lot to the N.J.A. for safekeeping when the time comes.  Nick Clarke of the NJA has also been heavily involved in the production of the book, together with Mike Rose, fellow NJA associate.

LJN: When will publication date be?

B O'C: Before the end of this month.  It’s just gone to the printer.  Fingers crossed.

LJN: How will people be able to get hold of a copy?

B O'C:  At the moment it can be ordered and purchased through me. I will also be selling it through clubs when I’m there taking photos.

‘Brian O’Connor’s Images of Jazz’ is published by Riverside Publishing Solutions, in association with the National Jazz Archive. The book is A4 hardback, 132 pages printed in colour throughout, ISBN 978-1-5272-0057-9. The book is priced at £25 plus £4.95 post and packing (UK), but the price for orders placed before 24th December 2016 is £20 plus p&p

CONTACT: Email: info@imagesofjazz.com.
website:  www.imagesofjazz.com

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