ARAM AVAKIAN - KEEPING JAZZ’S RHYTHM WITH A SHUTTER
"My father, Aram ‘Al’ Avakian, was probably just a kid when he picked up the family camera one day and started taking pictures. I never asked him what year it was. But photography was part of his young life. So was jazz.
Those two passions came together when my uncle George, a record producer, asked my dad to be the visual sideman during now historic recording sessions for Columbia Records. From Duke Ellington to Chet Baker, Dad photographed them all. He even persuaded George, his older brother, to sign Miles Davis. And he once impersonated Harry James — in French, no less.
Some of the photos shot in the studios of Columbia Records were used on album covers, some for publicity. Columbia kept the negatives and contacts in its archives, but most of Dad’s photographs were not used, and they sat unseen in the company’s archives for decades. When Sony, which had purchased Columbia, returned them to me, I was overjoyed: Not only were they in great condition, but they also formed a rarely seen chronicle of seminal jazz artists at work and at the peak of their creative powers.
We hope to share Dad’s soulful, intimate jazz images with the public on a wide scale soon. For now, three of his Miles Davis photos are prominently displayed in the ‘American Cool’ exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington. [Feb 7 - Sep 7, 2014]” (Alexandra Avakian; find more info and pictures on LENS)
#1: Duke Ellington at Columbia Records’ recording studio on West 30th Street, 1956
#2: Miles Davis at Columbia Records, 1957
#3: Lionel Hampton, jumping during a performance at the Apollo, 1954
#4: Mahalia Jackson at Columbia, 1954
#5: Lotte Lenya took a break while working on “Mack the Knife” with Louis Armstrong, 1956
#6: Louis Armstrong at Columbia, 1955
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