Born To Be Blue: Jazz Legend Chet Baker

 In Editorial

Jazz Legend Chet Baker at Hop Singhs

The release of the Chet Baker biopic Born to Be Blue reminded me that I had photographed a performance of his in 1985 at Hop Singhs in Marina del Rey, California. The photo shown above was used to illustrate an article on Baker authored by Kirk Silsbee, a noted authority on the subject of jazz. Later, in 2003, the photograph was part of an exhibit, curated by Silsbee, of my pictures of jazz musicians performing in Los Angeles in the 1980s. The exhibit, Audible Images, was paired with another body of work that I had just completed, Some Assembly Required, which was curated by Joseph De Mario, the Director of Bakery Art Exhibitions at the Jazz Bakery, then located in Culver City, California.

To see more photos from Audible Images, click here or on the above photo.

For more information about the Audible Images exhibit, check out the press release, below, which includes Silsbee’s curator’s statement.

Jazz photographs by Joel H. Mark

Joel Mark had studied photography with such masters as Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan at the Institute of Design in Chicago when he became a successful commercial photographer working in Los Angeles.  In the early 1980s, he began photographing local jazz musicians.  Designer Cheryl Brantner presented concerts by improvising musicians in her downtown loft.  She wanted her series to be memorable, right down to the mailers.  She enlisted Mark to shoot portraits of the artists for those flyers.  Thus Mark gained entrée to L.A.’s jazz and new music circles.  His portraiture was used by enterprising managers and bookers as press material in conjunction with upcoming concert and club dates.  Mark’s images soon enhanced album covers.  Journalists took him along when their reviews needed accompanying photos.

This show concentrates on Mark’s performance work.  It is an extension of his portraiture, often capturing solitude in the midst of furious ensemble exchange. The musicians may be oblivious to the camera but Mark manages to capture a measure of truth regarding creation in the moment.  Much of it was taken at venues that are now gone–Hop Singh’s, the Silver Screen Room, At My Place and serves as a reminder of a fertile period.  These are audible images. – Kirk Silsbee

Joel Mark’s performance photos of L.A.’s improvising musicians of the 1980s are a window on a powerful time in jazz that is now just out of reach.  Chet Baker, John Carter, Bill Douglass, Tal Farlow, Billy Higgins, Harold Land, Warne Marsh and Horace Tapscott were all part of that landscape, so vivid in these images.