Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Rainy Day in Jazzland

A Rainy Day in Jazzland

By Malcolm Sinclair

Sunday afternoon in the south west of England. Do I walk the dog, finish preparations for our Bristol exhibition, or launch this website?

Well, the website has to go ahead, so that is answer number one. Thanks to some hard graft from a number of friends since December, and some invaluable advice from others, the site is ready to showcase David Sinclair’s photographs in a far better way than they ever have been seen before online. Ecommerce may have to wait, but this site is about jazz first, photography second, and sales third. If we ever lose sight of that priority then we have failed in our aim to reflect the quality of my father’s work and the richness of the friendships that he has built with so many of the artists he has photographed.
So please look around the site. Send us any feedback on changes or improvements. Enjoy the range of pictures, the breadth of artists, and the depth of David’s inimitable black and white jazz style. As you will see from text on every page, we would rather they are not copied without permission – they are one man’s sole work over a quarter of a century. But you can also buy them of course.
So many musicians, clubs, producers and record companies have been in touch recently to offer encouragement and support to what we are doing with Sinclair Jazz. Some of these are listed on our Links page. One of them who has been particularly involved is Andy Sheppard who can be seen in silhouette in the picture with this blog. That picture has been our main advertisement for the first formal showing of David Sinclair’s work outside of the south east of England: in Bristol in the fortnight leading up to the International Jazz and Blues Festival there.
Andy, who lives locally when not travelling to play his sax elsewhere, is a patron of the Festival. He is also, in his typically generous way, delivering a short solo performance soon after 6pm on Wednesday 25th February at the Colston Hall in Bristol to mark the opening of the exhibition. Do come along if you are local and would like to attend.
There are over 40 pictures at the exhibition. This morning I was at our local photography agency, Lacock Photography, looking at the Freddie Hubbard one. It has a typical David Sinclair style: grainy, black and white, timeless. I am tempted to pinch the framed version out of the exhibition and hang it at home! Have a look for yourself. 
Tag cloud of the artists on the wall in Bristol

Tag cloud of the artists on the wall in Bristol

So that’s it for a rainy day in England. New website, new exhibition. This evening, David will be at home in Surrey listening to Clare Teal on Radio 2. Clare gave the exhibition a good plug last week, but as importantly for David she plays the kind of big band swing that he loves so much. Meanwhile, in Wiltshire, there is a Basset Hound that needs a walk – get in touch if you fancy it. I am staying in the warm for now, with a dash of Mike Hobart’s Urban Jazz Collective, after his great tweet about my dad’s photography the other day.


Edinburgh to Ronnie Scotts – Becoming a Jazz Photographer

Edinburgh to Ronnie Scotts – Becoming a Jazz Photographer

By David Sinclair

Artie Shaw, by DS.

I have always loved music. It started with my mother playing Boogie-Woogie and Chopin on a battered, upright piano at home in Craigmillar, Edinburgh. Then, whilst in hospital in London in my late teens, a fellow patient introduced me to his 78’s of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. I fell in love with the clarinet.

Since then, the Swing era, clarinet music, and klezmer, have always been high on my list of listening. Sadly to-day there are very few performers on the instrument, as most alto and tenor sax players tell me that it is rather difficult to play. I think they are wrong, I have a clarinet and it’s impossible to play.

David’s first, and favourite, image of Ronnie, 1989

My interest in photography arrived much later when, in the mid 1980’s, my wife Kathy bought me a Minolta 35mm as a birthday present. We spent weekends visiting and photographing old churches in the Surrey, Sussex and Kent. I much prefer black and white pictures to colour, and the churches were perfect for such work. I also visited car boot sales regularly, and one Sunday I came upon a stainless steel case which held a Rolleiflex 2.8, a Nikon 35mm body and 3 lenses, which I finally negotiated to a total price of £50!
Then, in the local village of Bletchingley, the school hall started performance evenings of actors, authors and musicians. I went with my camera to the first event, which was US Dixieland trumpeter Wild Bill Davison.
CEDAR WALTON. © David Sinclair. 01883-345790.

Cedar Walton, by DS. Cedar was playing at Ronnies the night that David and Ronnie first met.

Soon after, the Ronnie Scott Quintet played there. The photograph I took that night of Ronnie sitting unaware, shown here, is still one of my favourites. After printing it in my darkroom, I rang him at his club to ask if he would sign it. He said “Sure, bring it along”. He gave Kathy and I a table watching the jazz pianist Cedar Walton, and later signed the picture “To a Great Guy. Ronnie”. I was delighted, particularly as he felt I was a great guy…until next morning over my cornflakes and gazing starry eyed at the photo and the written blessing, I suddenly realised that the wording actually read “FROM a Great Guy.” Typical of Ronnie!

Don Weller & Art Themen

Meanwhile, Kathy and I started twice a week visits to the Bulls Head pub music room, in Barnes, by the River Thames in London. Great stuff, with the likes of Stan Tracey, Don Weller, Art Themen and Dick Morrissey. Very soon, the owner, Dan Fleming, had my photographs all round the walls of the room, and I began to feel like a Jazz Photographer. So much so in fact that I rang Ronnie Scotts, and wound up speaking to Pete King (the manager there since 1959), asking if I could come to the club to take photos, NO was his pointed reply – he always had a soft heart.

Pete King & Elvin Jones by DS.

A few months later, I was very surprised, and overjoyed, to get a call from Pete (I didn’t know he even knew my number), who in his charming fashion said “bring your bloody camera up if you want to.” I have now been photographing there for 25 years. From then on jazz photography became a major part of my life. Other clubs followed, and links across the music industry.
David Sinclair. 01883-345790. Intl. (UK) +44 1883 345790

Len Skeat, Bassist and early Mentor, here in Ronnies 2002

Looking back on those early days I met many musicians, managers and promoters who supported me and have become good friends. But, above all, I am grateful to Len Skeat who, early on, was my mentor, introducing me into venues, and encouraging me with my work. I have much to thank him for.
As well as Ronnies, I enjoy visiting as many other London venues as I can, including the 606 Club, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Vortex, as well as many larger venues across the city such as the Barbican, Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. The London Jazz Festival is always a highlight of my year, not least because of my close relationship with everyone at Serious who produce the Festival.
David’s work remains all over the walls of Ronnies to this day. He still photographs there on occasion. See the “galleries” on this website for more of his 25+ years unique archive of jazz.

Andy Sheppard at Ronnies

Jon Hendricks at Ronnies

Mark Murphy at Ronnies

Mark Knopfler at Ronnies

Sinclair Jazz: 25 Years on the Inside

Sinclair Jazz: 25 Years on the Inside

By David + Malcolm Sinclair

How do you promote jazz photography? How do you showcase tens of thousands of images taken in dark, previously smoky, clubs and concert venues across London and the South East? How do you bring the unique world of jazz to life outside of these clubs?

After David Sinclair had spent 25 years of countless afternoons and evenings capturing images of thousands of jazz and other musicians, we decided in late 2014 that we would like to start to share his work more widely, online, in print, and in public at jazz festivals, arts centres and galleries.
David’s work, as he describes on this new website, commenced with a photograph of the American Dixieland trumpeter Wild Bill Davison in an Arts Centre in Surrey. This quickly led to the Bulls Head in Barnes and then to Ronnie Scotts where he has taken tens of thousands of photographs of international and homegrown jazz greats.
The jazz world comes alive at night. It has always been built around live music, from Bix Beiderbecke to Wynton Marsalis. Bix was a bit before our time, but Wynton on the other hand, well we have a lot of Wynton playing over the years, and even an inside shot, shown here, of his opening of the new Ronnie Scotts in 2006. David’s black and white signature style reflects much of this world for those who were not there at the time, such as the Kenny Wheeler Quartet above at the 606 Club in 2008.
The website will start to share these black & white and colour photographs with a good enough resolution for people to get a feel for how good they look when printed at a decent size. Initially we will place about 300 photographs on the site, then add more each week, mostly linked to short blog pieces.
Many of David’s best known photographs can also been seen on the walls of clubs in London, such as Ronnies, the 606 and Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho.
Go to the Galleries section of this site to see many of these artists in full flow, doing what they do best. We have thousands more and will soon list in the Archive all those artists – in the meantime contact us for anyone you cannot see on here. If they have played in the last 25 years we probably have them.
The main aim of this site, and of Sinclair Jazz, is to share David’s work worldwide. But he has also always sold his photographs for many years. Any picture you see on this site can be clicked on to purchase. We will be developing different merchandise options later in 2015.
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