For the 4th year, I have been fortunate enough to be the photographer for The National Endowment for the Arts’ annual Jazz Masters awards at Jazz at Lincoln Center, in New York City. While the weather conspired against me ( turning the usual less than 4 hour drive from D.C. into a 6 1/2 hour battle against torrential rains ), the event itself was, as always, a unique opportunity to meet and work with some of the most innovative luminaries of the jazz world, America’s special contribution to musical culture. This year’s class of Masters included pianist, composer & bandleader Carla Bley, saxophonists George Coleman and Charles Lloyd, and Chicago jazz entrepreneur Joe Segal. The award presentation, held in the Rose Theater, was an evening filled with fabulous music, entertaining stories and the warmth that comes with the companionship of old friends. The NEA, and its new Chairwoman Jane Chu, should be commended for helping to keep this most American of art forms alive and relevant, and affording its original innovators the recognition they so richly deserve.
George Coleman – from B.B. King to Miles Davis & beyond
Ira Sullivan performed with Jimmy Heath
Thelonious Monk Award winner Cecile McLorin Salvant performed “Motherless Child” in honor of the Jazz Masters who left us in 2014
Charles Lloyd and company
I love guitars! Banjos, mandolins, violins, viola de gambas! Not only do I get to photograph the musicians that make music on these amazing stringed creations, but I also get to work with the especially talented, thoughtful and gifted folks that design and build the instruments that allow musicians to make the noise that we call MUSIC! I recently had the opportunity to document a few of the latest guitars from Pennsylvania luthier Matt Artinger and some stunning banjos from Beltsville, Maryland based Kevin Enoch! Not only are these amazingly beautiful bits of musical eye candy, but they all sound as good as they look.
My personal favorite- “The Tokyo Rosie” but, then again, it would be! I got to lend a small hand in the design of this one- Billy Gibbons, eat your heart out! ( now I just need some folks to play with- )
The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys.
The modern sea was accidentally created by the engineers of the California Development Company in 1905. In an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming, irrigation canals were dug from the Colorado River into the valley. Due to fears of silt buildup, a cut was made in the bank of the Colorado River to further increase the water flow. The resulting outflow overwhelmed the engineered canal, and the river flowed into the Salton Basin for two years, filling the historic dry lake bed and creating the modern sea, before repairs were completed.
Bombay Beach is a small community located along the east shore of the Salton sea. Although still inhabited by a hearty group of residents, it has fallen on hard times and many of its vintage mobile homes and travel trailers are now unoccupied and facing the ravages of time, salty air and vandals.
A Volkswagen station wagon!
Tens of thousands of bleached fish skeletons litter the beach
From ancient petroglyphs to modern jumbotrons, man has felt compelled to leave a sign of his passing upon the landscape. While I usually focus heavily on neon, I also love ghost signs, graffiti and just about any other artistic mark that humans leave upon their environment, especially where it concerns commerce.
Here are a few more from our trip through Arizona and New Mexico.
Try as I might, I just can’t get away from those damn banjos!!
It is actually “Barn” Again, (In a barn) next to the Burger Boy
Just great vintage neon
I don’t think this development ever really got off the ground- (alongside an abandoned stretch of old Route 66)
**** note the strange little box in the right hand corner***
Left over from an old windmill- wish I could have brought it home
Let’s get Fluffy right over!!
This is some great graffiti on an abandoned water tank
I think this about says it all
Our recent trip to the American Southwest also presented us with the glories of the desert in springtime. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.
We recently took a trip to beautiful San Diego. While my significant other toiled away in the bowels of the city’s splendid convention center, I was left to my own devices to while away the daylight hours. The sky was blue, the temperature a soothing and constant 70 degrees, and the quality of light was a visualist’s dream. I averaged about 4-6 walking miles a day, and there was literally too much to possibly fit into this abbreviated blog, but here’s a small sampling, divided into a few brief sections.
Faces were everywhere- and not just the ones on the people I met
It had been over 30 years since I was last in Balboa Park, and it remains an oasis of beauty
and vibrant activity
San Diego is in a huge boom of new building and renovation, but the remnants of an older existence are still to be found if you keep your eyes open
New and old architecture, side by side
….and of course, San Diego is a city whose livelihood and identity are linked closely to its historic status as a seaport city.
One of the artistic endeavors that both pays my bills and enriches my soul, is working with the many talented musicians that come to me to help create vibrant packaging for their CD and album covers, as well as promotional portraits and images for their websites and press kits. 2014 was a constructive and varied year for these projects, and 2015 looks to be one of many creative collaborations as well. From jazz, to bluegrass and country, from Irish to early classical, a musician’s visual presentation should always tell the story of his or her musical soul. Here are a few of the projects that I both photographed and designed last year. I’m looking forward to reaching out to some different areas of the musical spectrum this year & creating some truly memorable covers- Maybe for YOU!
Springfield Exit on the Patuxent Music label
Frank Wakefield & Red Allen
Howdy Friends! Long time no see, you might say! Yes, I have been on a bit of a hiatus for the past year,as my life has experienced many changes, but I am happy to say, all for the best. So I hope to get back in the groove and continue to post images that strike my fancy, or elicit an emotional response, or make a statement, or just plain look beautiful or interesting. As the title of this blog states, this is about that vanishing bit of Americana that I love so well, the neon landscape of this wacky and grand country of ours. So for my return to blogging, I present this bit of dreamscape from a recent trip to Arizona and New Mexico, a brief roadtrip down the “Mother road”, Route 66, and a bit of the vanishing commercial artistry of the local neon signage.
We stayed here at the Monterey, clean, friendly, and a bit of time travel back to 1976!
The late, lamented Aztec Motel- now gone, with only this iconic neon remaining
I’m getting a message from Sputnik here!
The Dog House, in Albuquerque, New Mexico- great place for a hot dog & milk shake! Look for the sign of the happy, wagging tail!
The El Don- some of the best neon we saw, but the motel has been sadly neglected
“AIR CONDITIONED by REFRIGERATION!” What could be better?
Yesterday, the Washington, D.C. area music community gathered at Calvary Lutheran Church in Silver Spring, Maryland to remember and celebrate the life and music of jazz guitarist- Paul Wingo. Born in Havre de Grace, Maryland in 1946, Paul’s career spanned his early teen years in Cambridge, Maryland playing with the “VOLTS” through his years with the Army’s premier jazz ensemble, The Army Blues, to his many gigs with national and international jazz artists, including Zoot Sims, Phil Woods, Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis , Steve Allen and Dinah Shore. Paul was a Baltimore jazz institution in his own right, performing every Tuesday night at Bertha’s ( mussels ) Restaurant in Fells Point for 3 decades. ( He even rated a mention in a story by best selling mystery author Laura Lippman ) Paul was known as much for his quiet, gentle and unassuming personality and as a deeply committed teacher and friend as for his complex and fiery guitar licks. His friends and fellow guitarists and musicians paid their heartfelt goodbyes at this tribute hosted by WPFW-FM host, Tom Cole. A man of peace and profound commitment to his music, Paul will be greatly missed by all those whose lives he touched with his music and deep sense of love and spirituality.
Steve Abshire, looking far too stern for such a lovable guy
WPFW’s own Tom Cole
Steve Herberman and Steve Abshire
Sue Matthews and Steve Herberman
Bassist Paul Langosch
Paul’s student, Andrew Latona
Aaron Rubinstein and Jan Knutson
Clarinet virtuoso & music educator, Dr. Charles Stier
Pianist Stef Scaggiari
Former Airman of Note, Rick Whitehead
Carlos Barbosa Lima
Jazz Violinist, Susan Jones
Saxophonist, Bruce Swaim
Chuck Karner and Laura Lee
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO JOIN US IN OUR CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF JAZZ GUITARIST- PAUL WINGO, A DEAR FRIEND, TALENTED GUITARIST AND COMPOSER, AND TRULY GENTLE SOUL! THIS TRIBUTE TO THE LIFE OF PAUL WINGO WILL BE HELD ON, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2014 FROM 1:00-4:00 AT CALVARY LUTHERAN CHURCH, 9545 GEORGIA AVENUE, SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND 20910- ALL ARE WELCOME!! IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PERFORM, OR SHARE ONE OF THE THOUSANDS OF “WINGO” STORIES THAT WE ALL HAVE, PLEASE CONTACT STEVE ABSHIRE at email@example.com or 301-318-4275 or MICHAEL G. STEWART at firstname.lastname@example.org TO GET ON THE PROGRAM. WE LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING YOU JOIN US IN CELEBRATION OF A TRULY GIFTED & UNIQUE HUMAN BEING!