By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Posts Tagged ‘fine arts

Jazz Emerges Part 7

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Sing Miller: This Little Light of Mine

Visible Roots of America’s Most Original Cultural Product

Photographs by William Carter 1970 — 1989

Born in 1914, pianist-vocalist Sing Miller was active on the New Orleans scene from the late 1920s until his death in 1990. If Sing didn’t like something, he’d let you know. “Man…that ball don’t bounce,” is a Sing-saying drummer Jeff Hamilton remembers.

Early one winter morning in Iowa in 1984, when I was traveling as a photojournalist with the Percy Humphrey band, Sing sat alone in the lobby for most of an hour, staring glumly out at the blustery weather. Finally he lumbered over and checked out. “Have a nice day,” said the lady at the desk. Sing: “How I’m gonna have a nice day when you took all my money?”

But he was also a bon vivant. When a reporter asked him, “Where did the blues begin?” Sing replied, “I’ll tell you where the blues begin. Blues begin with fish fries.”

Like many early New Orleans musicians, he had an alternate profession: as a paving contractor. On gigs he gave out business cards that read, “Let me pave the way for you.”

But Sing is best remembered for captivating audiences of five, or five thousand, with his vocals on blues and spirituals. After a performance one night at New York’s prestigious Lincoln Center, the famous folklorist Alan Lomax told me:

“The first note he sang, I began to cry.  That first note of Sing’s made me burst into tears.  This little, humble, crushed-looking man was in great big Avery Fisher Hall, and he knew it.  And the first note he formed was as beautiful as a garden of flowers. It was a sunburst of the soul.”

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CLICK HERE TO HEAR SING DOING “SING’S BLUES” WITH WILLIE HUMPHREY AND OTHERS AT PRESERVATION HALL.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR SING DOING “AMEN” ON TOUR WITH THE PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND.

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Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

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September 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Jazz Emerges Part 4

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Trumpeter Percy and Clarinetist Willie Humphrey
On Tour and At Home

Visible Roots of America’s Most Original Cultural Product

Photographs by William Carter 1973-1985

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Birthday party with kin folk and friends after a gig in California in 1976; musicians included the Humphrey brothers (center), drummer Cie Frazier (behind Percy), and banjoist/singer Narvin Kimball (seated).

In a long caption in my book, Preservation Hall (W.W. Norton, 1991), I told the story, quoted below, of the Humphreys’ long lives and distinguished lineage. I never met their trombonist brother, Earl, who died relatively young. Their father, Willie Humphrey Sr., was a clarinetist who spent much of his life on road tours; in a surviving publicity shot he looks just like Willie Jr. The pioneering grandfather’s story says something about the rich artistic and cultural complexities underpinning the birth of what has been called “America’s classical music”:

“The work of the front-line Humphrey triumvirate stemmed from the teaching of their grandfather, James Brown Humphrey, who played a unique role in the earliest years of jazz. That “fair-skinned Negro with red hair,” as the authors Berry, Foose and Jones told it, in Up from the Cradle of Jazz (1986), “starting about 1887, boarded the train each week, wearing a swallow-tailed coat and carrying a cornet case and music sheets in a satchel. The professor had many New Orleans pupils who entered the ranks of early jazz; he is also said to have taught whites. Most students on his weekly tour of the plantation belt — 25 miles either way from the city — were illiterate workers who lived in shacks behind the sugar and cotton fields along the river…Humphrey by 1890 was a rare commodity, a black man who lived off his talents as an artist. He played all instruments, directed bands and orchestras, and became a catalyst sending rural blacks into urban jazz ensembles.”

The essence of classic New Orleans jazz is the ensemble. The essence of that essence is a tough, growling, cut-down, loose-limbed, abbreviated lead trumpet or cornet — allowing the other horns lots of space. Trumpeter Percy Humphrey gives us a fiery taste of his lead in the excerpts below.”Running Wild” and “Panama” were recorded in Oxford, Ohio by the great George Lewis Ragtime Band of 1952.

Click below to listen to segments of “Runnin’ Wild” and “Panama.”

In the following solo on “St. Louis Blues,” clarinetist Willie Humphrey demonstrates two cardinal components of the New Orleans style.

Rhythmically, the horns and piano never cease to play off of, and around, the beat as strictly laid down by the rhythm section. Attacking microseconds before or after what would be correct in a more European or “white” reading, this constant off-beatness serves to trip up the listener. “What’s your music for? Mine’s for dancing!” exulted a classic player. Making people move their bodies out on the streets and in the dance halls is the musicians’ fundamental assignment — which extends to foot tapping in concert halls. Syncopation is key.

Structurally, Willie gradually, logically builds his variations from lower to higher pitches and intensities. Employing St. Louis Blues-derived themes and a faux-stumbling manner that helps release micro-rhythms, he gradually weaves a baroque edifice soaring above the underlying foundation.

Click below to listen to “St. Louis Blues.”

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

August 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Hands Are Us (Part 2)

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Moment, 11/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1973

Moment, 11/25 ©William Carter 1973

Closure, 1/25 Platinum Print, ©William Carter 1992

Closure, 1/25 Platinum Print, ©William Carter 1992

Suggestion, 1/35 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1994

Suggestion, 1/35 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1994

Dance, 2/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 2006

Dance, 2/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 2006

Shiva, 2/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1989

Shiva, 2/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1989

Actor, New York City, printed later, ©William Carter 1963

Actor, New York City, printed later, ©William Carter 1963

Near Ganeshpuri, Maharashtra, India, ©William Carter 1981

Near Ganeshpuri, Maharashtra, India, ©William Carter 1981

Wrestlers 1/35 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter

Wrestlers 1/35 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter

Hands

In Touch: Dominique and Sramana

Sramana

Sramana

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

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May 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Hands Are Us (Part 1)

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Touching the Heart

Ruth and Olivia, 2012Archival Inkjet Print, ©William Carter 2012

Ruth and Olivia, 2012, Archival Inkjet Print, ©William Carter 2012

On September 11, 2012, I visited my beloved 97-year old Aunt Ruth. Her body systems were shutting down. Two of her children, Maureen and Susan, and one granddaughter, Olivia, were there. I took a few pictures, including the one above. Two nights later, Aunt Ruth passed away.

In the 1980s and ’90s I spend fifteen years photographing nudes and the body. For much of that I carefully avoided hands: they felt personal and unique, whereas the project was about universal forms. Eventually, though, hands started creeping in. I’m not sure if that was my decision or theirs. Several appeared in my 1996 book, Illuminations.

“Hands” is a project without a beginning or an end. Some were used with Indian poetry quotations and readings by Sramana Mitra. I used a shot of my own palm as the endsheets for my 2011 book, Causes and Spirits.

Here are some others:

Sramana's Hands, vintage silver print, ©William Carter 2002

Sramana’s Hands, vintage silver print, ©William Carter 2002

Appearance, 23/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1983

Appearance, 9/25  ©William Carter 1983

Char, 3/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1992

Char, 3/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1992

Remember, 3/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1990

Remember, 3/25 vintage silver print, ©William Carter 1990

Mystery (detail), Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1990

Mystery (detail), Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1990

Whisper, Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1992

Whisper, Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1992

Intimation, 3/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1991

Intimation, 3/25 Vintage Silver Print, ©William Carter 1991

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

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May 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm

The Middle Americans (Part 8)

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Quiet Truths Near the Center of Our Lives

…prairie places..

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

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February 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm

The Middle Americans (Part 7)

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Quiet Truths Near the Center of Our Lives

…prairie people…

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

February 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm

The Middle Americans (Part 6)

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Quiet Truths Near the Center of Our Lives

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

January 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

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