Man who immortalised jazz stars dies aged 76

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The Independent Culture

Jamie Hodgson, the photographer whose haunting images of jazz musicians helped immortalise its greatest stars, has died at the age of 76.

The former fashion photographer, who died of cancer on Sunday, took his stark black and white pictures of musicians including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong during the 1950s and 1960s.

His pictures, which amounted to a hall of fame of American jazz greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Ray Charles, was all the more remarkable given that Hodgson took none of them in the United States. The shots were all taken by the photographer, a jazz fanatic, during live performances by the stars in London.

Hodgson lived long enough to fulfil an ambition to see 50 unpublished images from his jazz collection go on display this month in the Masters of Jazz exhibition at the National Theatre in London.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, the photographer described how one of the images, showing Ella Fitzgerald "in a very bad mood", was taken backstage at the London Palladium in 1958.

He said: "She was complaining because they wouldn't allow Oscar Peterson on stage to accompany her because of the union regulations."

Hodgson began documenting the visits of jazz musicians to Britain as a hobby in the 1950s, attending performances across London.

He also set up the Kinnerton Street Studio in Knightsbridge where he made his living photographing models such as Jean Shrimpton, Tania Mallet and the wife of the former Conservative leader Michael Howard, then known as Sandra Paul. He also took pictures of celebrities including Frankie Howerd, Harry Secombe and the six members of the television comedy act, the Crazy Gang. But his first love remained chronicling jazz musicians performing live or preparing backstage. Dizzy Gillespie was shown playing chess while preparing to perform, along with a still-life picture of his trumpet with its dented horn lying in its case. Hodgson said: "Dizzy dropped it, bent it and decided it was a better sound to play it with the bell pointing upwards."

The photographs have been frequently reproduced around the world, appearing in retrospectives of the musicians' work.

Hodgson said that his pictures had captured a golden age for jazz in Britain: "We had never seen the great jazz musicians because, until the Fifties, they never came to Britain. It was an exciting time."