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Sometimes I feel uncomfortable when looking back at the earliest issues of JAZZIZ. Visually, they weren’t much to look at. Thankfully, that period during which the magazine was new and awkward lasted only a few years. Then the appearance of the magazine began to improve dramatically. Today, it’s much easier on the eyes.
During the early days, I was obsessed with differentiating JAZZIZ from the fray of other jazz magazines then available. Since most of us tended to cover the same general scene, I figured the best way to set JAZZIZ apart was visually. I wanted our stories and reviews to be accompanied by memorable, professionally shot photographs. Our success in that endeavor amounted to our first noteworthy achievement, and I look back at it as a necessary part of our survival, growth and development.
In some ways, Rolling Stone magazine served as my model and inspiration for how a quality music publication should look. I wanted to cover jazz in the same fashion as Rolling Stone covered pop and rock. I wanted to run edgy stories and solid writing in a magazine with a consistently strong, compelling layout. And I was definitely determined to design iconic covers. As a result, JAZZIZ was a better-looking magazine before it was a better-reading magazine. Fortunately, our focus on visual excellence attracted a talented assemblage of contributing writers, illustrators, designers and editors, all of whom helped to mold this publication into what it is today.
In the following pages, we’d like to share with you some of the great photography we commissioned through the years. I like to think that such photos were key in helping us to increase the popularity of jazz in the last three decades. Certainly, the artists featured in the photos fully deserved the star treatment we so happily gave them. As JAZZIZ continues to grow and evolve, I look forward to giving the same treatment to a whole new generation of gifted musicians. — Michael Fagien
Stanley Clarke | Photo by Chris Cuffaro, January 1987
With champagne taste and a beer budget, I remember assigning our first JAZZIZ cover-photo session to Los Angeles-based photographer Chris Cuffaro. Thankfully, Chris was in the early stages of his photography career. Before long, he was landing gigs with A-list artists, athletes and Hollywood actors, and his photos were featured on hundreds of album covers.
Dave Brubeck | Jeff Sedlik, May 1993
When Chris Cuffaro was unavailable for a few shoots, I met with Jeff Sedlik, another Los Angeles-based photographer. Jeff’s work has graced some of our best covers, the most celebrated of which featured a photo that Jeff snapped during a day he spent with Miles Davis in Malibu. To schedule the date, I contacted Miles’ manager, Peter Shukat, who resisted but agreed to allow me to send samples of Jeff’s work to Miles. Impressed, Miles agreed to the shoot, but suddenly changed his mind when Jeff showed up at his home. After some schmoozing at the front door, Miles allowed Jeff and his crew inside, and the shoot was on. A few days later, I returned to Miles’ house to show him the results of the entire session. I decided to use his favorite shot for the cover story. My favorite shot from that session is, 30 years later, on the cover of this issue.
The photo of Dave Brubeck was taken by Sedlik in the back yard of Brubeck’s home in early 1993. The temperature that day was below freezing, so right after this photo was taken, Dave and the camera crew headed back into the house (where the cover shot to the left was taken) to thaw out.
Wynton Marsalis | Jeff Sedlik, September 1991
Wynton frequently appeared on the cover of JAZZIZ in the ’80s and ’90s. This shot by Jeff Sedlik was taken with a 35mm camera for a cover story titled “Outstanding in His Field” (pun intended). While most of our covers have been shot by photographers using medium- or large-format film, Sedlik used 35mm film for this image to help him achieve a grainy effect.
Dizzy Gillespie | Jeff Sedlik, November 1992
While Jeff Sedlik’s classic shot from this session prominently featured Dizzy’s famous cheeks — with the rest of his face hidden behind blown pink bubble gum and a hat — this was sadly one of the trumpet legend’s last photo sessions.
George Benson | Jeff Sedlik, November 1993
The best George Benson photos I’ve ever seen were from this Jeff Sedlik session. George liked them too. When this issue came out, I met George for a drink in the hotel where we were both staying. He wanted to sit in the corner to avoid being recognized, but when Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” came over the barroom speakers, he suddenly stood up and loudly started singing along.
Eliane Elias | Tom Legoff, March 2008
James Minchin was another Los Angeles-based photographer who shot some beautiful JAZZIZ covers in the mid-’90s. Through James, I met his assistant Tom LeGoff, who was preparing to move to New York City. Soon I began assigning cover shoots to Tom in the Big Apple. Tom has been with us ever since, and has done more photo shoots for us than anyone. One of my favorites, from which this shot is taken, is a session he did with Eliane Elias.
Diana Krall | Tom Legoff, December 1997
This is a photo from Tom Legoff for Diana Krall’s first national magazine cover shoot. After hearing Diana at the Five Spot in New York City shortly after her debut album was released, I promised her producer, Tommy LiPuma, that I’d run her on an upcoming cover. That cover appeared on talk shows and in newspapers as the world was being introduced to this inevitable star.
Chick Corea | Tom Legoff, December 1998
I remember walking into Chick Corea’s Madhatter Studios for the first time, and seeing a floor-to-ceiling painting of his Romantic Warrior album cover. That was the first jazz album I owned. I decided to create a similarly awesome cover for a story about Chick that we’d soon be running. The cover shot we used, taken by Tom LeGoff, captured Chick with his head strikingly tilted downward.
Jane Monheit | Tom Legoff, December 2001
During this time, singer Jane Monheit was the talk of the town. She had no idea what was up our sleeves when Tom LeGoff asked her to pose for some photos in a leopard-print leotard. One of those shots worked perfectly with the “Me Jane” cover story that we ran.
Geri Allen | Tom Legoff, August 1997
Geri Allen sat through several wardrobe, hair and set changes before Tom LeGoff shot this beautiful sepia-toned photo.
Esperanza Spalding | Tom Legoff, June 2008
The subject of Tom LeGoff’s favorite session for us was a young Esperanza Spalding. Tom was crushed to learn that Esperanza hated the cover photo we used. She said it made her look “so young and innocent.” On a sunnier note, Esperanza liked the LeGoff photos of her that appeared inside the magazine.
Cécile McLorin Salvant | Mark Fitton, Fall 2015
For her cover shoot, Cécile McLorin Salvant requested that we commission New York City-based photographer Mark Fitton. We hadn’t worked with Fitton before, but we were pleased to discover that his work with Cécile resulted in a few classic shots, including this one.
Joey Alexander | John Abbott, Winter 2017
Occasionally our photographers try to draw cover subjects out of their comfort zones. Sometimes subjects oblige, sometimes they don’t. When John Abbott was doing a cover shoot with then 13-year-old Joey Alexander, he wanted to capture the pianist’s youthful exuberance by having him jumping into the air. In this photo — shot by Abbott’s assistant, Alex Li — Abbott’s in the frame, helping Joey practice his leaps.