PhotoStory4: Big Jay McNeely - JazzWax

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July 10, 2009


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Karsten Gulden

It is almost like they are in jazz church!

The jump around kind.

Thank you -- Karsten

Nate Chinen

This is a nice feature of the blog, Marc -- really enjoyed the read. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Bob in and around Nice some years ago, which was fun (he's a great raconteur, obviously).

Tadjma Hall

And it is always Elvis who gets the credit for mass hysteria.


Alan Kurtz

Bob Willoughby did indeed snap many great jazz photographs. And Big Jay McNeely was a dynamo. But there's something wrong with this picture—or, rather, its description. "From time to time," Marc begins, "I spot a jazz photo that moves me so much, I have to know what happened the moment the camera's shutter came down." Marc then treats us to Willoughby's classic 1951 photo of Big Jay on his back at a midnight concert in L.A., as well as to Mr. Willoughby's recollection of this "jazz concert." The problem is, as great as he was, Big Jay McNeely was never a jazz musician; thus, as great as Willoughby's picture is, it ain't a jazz photo. McNeely may have been inspired by Illinois Jacquet, who was a jazz musician, but Big Jay himself was first, last and always an R&B tenorman. R&B was not jazz, and to blur that distinction does a disservice to both genres.


This reminds me of scenes from "On the Road", by Jack Kerouac. Incredible.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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