Art » Masters of Jazz Photography

Masters of Jazz Photography — Esmond Edwards


John Coltrane
Hackensack, NJ, 1957

Photo by Esmond Edwards


      The great improvisational American jazz musicians of the mid-20th century inspired a generation of photographers to develop a looser, moodier style of visual expression. That evocative approach is on striking display in The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography. Covering six decades of performers — from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to John Coltrane and Miles Davis — this unique collection is as much a comprehensive catalogue of jazz greats as it is a salute to the photographers who captured them.

      Lee Tanner was a leading authority on jazz photography. He selected works — by such noted jazz photographers as Herman Leonard, Bob Willoughby, Milt Hinton, and Bill Claxton —that are iconic, candid, explosive, and intimate. They provide a simultaneous look at jazz, photography, and America from 1935 into the 1990s.#


In honor of the late Mr. Tanner, Jerry Jazz Musician presents a number of editions of “Master of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in The Jazz Image.

This edition: Esmond Edwards





      Esmond Edwards, a native of Nassau, the Bahamas, moved to New York City’s Harlem in 1932 at age five. As a teenager, he developed avid interests in jazz and photography. He pursued a career as an X-ray technician until 1957, when he quit to be a freelance photographer. About that time he went to a Prestige recording session with a friend, drummer Arthur Taylor, where he took some photographs; the producer later bought a print for the album cover. Edwards took an office job at Prestige and attended recording sessions, learning music-production techniques, and he rose to become A & R director. Edwards recalled, “I got to sign and work with exciting new artists like Eric Dolphy and Oliver Nelson, as well as old favorites like Buck Clayton and Coleman Hawkins. I was supervising the recordings, shooting pictures during the rundowns and playbacks, and then I would hurry home to process the film and print and design the LP cover.” Edwards left in 1962 and went on to A & R positions at several other labels, including Cadet, Verve, and Impulse, where he recorded Ramsey Lewis, John Handy, and rock-and-roll legend Chuck Berry. [Edwards died in 2007].

– text from The Jazz Image

John Coltrane and Jackie McLean; Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, 1957


Thelonious Monk


Miles Davis outside the Prestige Records offices


Coleman Hawkins’ 1959 album, Hawk Eyes



Curtis Fuller’s 1957 album, New Trombone


Red Garland’s 1959 album, Red in Bluesville


About the Author

Lee Tanner photographed jazz musicians for nearly half a century. His photographs have appeared in Down Beat, Jazz Times, American Photo, and Popular Photography, on the covers of many record albums, and in several books.


# Text from the publisher



Read our interview with Lee Tanner

Remembering Lee Tanner