Before he was a famous rock photographer, Jim Marshall photographed jazz, covering the festivals in Newport, Rhode Island and Monterey, California in the 1960s and photographing the biggest stars along with their deeply hip audience. Jazz Festival: Jim Marshall, published recently by Reel Art Press in collaboration with the Jim Marshall Archive, collects some 600 of Marshall’s black and white images made between 1960 and 1966, most of them previously unpublished. At the Newport Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival, Marshall recorded the icons of jazz: Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Ben Webster, Nina Simone, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and others.
His images of performers at work and back stage capture the cool, relaxed feeling of the events, which extended to the audience. As Nat Hentoff and Graham Marsh point out in the book, jazz venues were some of the first truly integrated spaces in the U.S. Black and white fans shared an interest in the music as well as a certain sartorial style, and in Marshall’s images, stars and performer both look good. As Marsh writes, “In the 1960s, when it came to jazz, style was part of the equation in both clothes and attitude. At Monterey and Newport black culture was openly embraced and integrated audiences were the norm. Nobody cared—as long as you looked sharp and dug the music—anything else was just jiving, there was strictly no room for squares.” Part of the charm of the book is how well the style on display has aged. Writes Marsh, “At both festivals, on any given day it was a sea of Bass Weejun loafers, natural shouldered seersucker jackets, essential Lacoste tennis shirts and Clarks desert boots. Definitely on the money were also button-down shirts, chinos and 501 Levi’s.…It was dressing fine, making time and moreover, a visual feast for Ray Ban and Persol shaded eyes.”