Photo of Sarah Vaughan by Dee Kalea

Sarah Vaughan

Photo of Ornette Coleman by Dee Kalea

Ornette Coleman

August 4 Exhibit & Silent Auction of Historic Jazz Photos

Photo of Eddie Palmieri by Dee Kalea

Eddie Palmieri

I grew up in New York City, having Ornette Coleman for a stepfather. Thelonious Monk often woke me up, playing my mother and Ornette a tune on "my" beat-up old upright piano at 3:00 a.m.

Both my mother and her sister broke ground as the first women working professionally and fulltime in New York's music business, working their way up—first as secretaries and later in many roles particular to jazz. My mother was Ray Charles' personal assistant, helping to initiate his Tangerine Records. My aunt worked alongside Quincy Jones. The Village Vanguard was my earliest babysitter, as both women also helped with booking there, as well as at the original Five Spot Café and The Village Gate. Recording sessions and rehearsals also were fertile training grounds for my later photo work.

When I turned twelve in 1964, my aunt gave me my first camera, thus beginning my lifelong career of documenting musicians at work. Now I had the instrument (the camera), the music background, and familiar compelling subjects (performing jazz musicians).

Renowned jazz photographer Herb Snitzer was working in New York for the old Metronome and Down Beat magazines. Inspired by a Life magazine assignment to England in 1962 to document the innovative Summerhill School, he came back so enthused that he established the Lewis-Wadhams School, just across Lake Champlain from Vermont. I was one of the students always at Herb's side, both in his photography classes and in the darkroom, when he worked on his own frequent music assignments.

As classes were not compulsory, I was able to make a major time commitment towards my budding passion for music photography. When finished with school, I returned to New York City, where I worked in custom black-and-white photo labs, honing my printing skills and making my own living; I was not yet sixteen years old.

Eventually, many recording companies relocated to Los Angeles, and in 1978 I followed. I lived and worked there until the late 1980s, eventually returning to Vermont, where I make my home.

Knowing musicians as family, as opposed to "stars" and public personalities, has afforded me access to relaxed relationships and photo opportunities. My roster of shots includes many used for record covers and promotion/publicity shots, which the artists themselves request. Throughout more than fifty years of photographing musicians. I've gained the greatest pleasure and pride from being told by artists whom I've documented, "I can hear my music in your pictures!"

Although based in Vermont, I still get calls to shoot special events or recording dates and concert appearances in New York. I had a music history radio program weekly for nine years, starting in 1998, with an occasional interview or live recording. All programs were catalogued and archived.

Copyright 2017, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont

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