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Hugged by a Million Stars

Hugged by a Million Stars

"His photographs are like a kaleidoscope of my life. They are so personal, looking at musicians in a human way, that many photographers don't, as they do it for the image and not the person" - Michael Connarty, formerly Chairman of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards

Sinclair David (Claire Martin) 55788 Royal Albert Hall 18.11.15

Mari Wilson & Claire Martin with David at the Royal Albert Hall 2015 

So many musicians, journalists, jazz buffs and collectors at last winter’s Royal Albert Hall Exhibition, said that David’s work needs more exposure. But how?

Sinclair David 55770 Royal Albert Hall 18.11.15

Julian Joseph and other visitors to the Royal Albert Hall Exhibition in November 2015

Those that have known him for years will be aware that self-publicity is rarely his style. He turns up at a club, having parked in the nearest blue badge disabled bay, puts his walking sticks aside, takes a few shots, then goes home. It was forever thus. Even this week at Ronnies catching up with old friends from the Average White Band, on one of his rare visits to the Club since a bad car accident, he was again away early.

Our question now is what to do next to promote work that was described last year as “unbelievable photography” and “absolutely inspirational” and “a wonderful legacy” and “you are the best, stunning, emotional, brought back many memories” and, well, every other superlative imaginable?


“If you are trying to be a jazz venue, as long as there are some Sinclairs on the wall then it is a sign of authenticity that you have made it in the jazz world”Simon Cooke, Managing Director, Ronnie Scotts


JONES Elvin 18

Elvin Jones, one of David’s 85+ photographs up on the walls of Ronnie Scott’s

Most of the photographs covering the walls of Ronnie Scott’s, Pizza Express Jazz and the 606 are David’s. They are likely to be, for years to come, a semi-permanent way of displaying some of his most iconic shots. But they are only about 150 out of more than 50,000 images in his 27 year archive.

As well as in London Clubs, over the last 18 months we have displayed David’s pictures in a number of different venues: in Paris in an exhibition alongside Charles Delaunay drawings for the 80th anniversary of Jazz Hot; in London at the Royal Albert Hall and in Bristol at the Colston Hall at those cities’ respective main Jazz Festivals; and in smaller arty venues such as the Arts Lodge Cafe in Portsmouth, or Bar Chocolat in Bristol.

HARRY "Sweets" EDISON, at Pizza Express, 21-10-96.

Harry Sweets Edison, one of around 50 of David’s images on the walls at Pizza Express Jazz Soho

The feedback from all of these displays, particularly the larger exhibitions, has really taken us aback. What visitors to David’s exhibitions remarked, time and time again, was how he has been able, year after year, since 1989, to find the one shot in a show that is as personally evocative as the music he seeks to represent.

This copyright photograph may be used for PR use only, it can not be used for CD, DVD, Video, Record, Cassette, Poster or any other purpose without specific written permission from the copyright owner, David Sinclair.

Mike Stern, one of David’s images displayed at the 606 Club

The fact that he started this when clubs were poorer lit and smokier than they are now, using for many years 35mm film and then early digital equipment, and did so restricted by his severe physical disabilities, has for many, including scores of musicians and vocalists, made David stand out. Of course, open all hours access to Ronnie Scott’s and almost every other London Club since the 1990s has helped too.


Collectors, including many of the musicians David has photographed, have for years put his images up on their own walls at home or work. Many of the hundreds of visitors to the Royal Albert Hall show wanted us to do more to share his photography with a wider public. Our question now is how? If you came to the show, or know David, or visit these clubs, or just like good photography, please get in touch if you have any ideas:  @ or use the form at the bottom of this post – As David’s son, I do not want Dad’s work to be like the American photographer Vivian Maier, only really discovered years after her death.

WYNTON MARSALIS. Jazz Cafe, 31/7/03.

Wynton Marsalis, one of the most popular of the pictures displayed in Paris in 2015  

Madeline Bell

Madeline Bell, admired by many of the visitors to the Royal Albert Hall, including Madeline herself


One of the last visitors to the Royal Albert Hall wrote in the Visitors Book that it had been “like being hugged by a million stars.” If you have any ideas on how to keep these stars shining bright, do send them through.

“One of the rare photographers who gets to the essence of the music. When you see David’s images you feel that you are part of the music that the artist is performing”John Cumming, Director of Serious & EFG London Jazz Festival


Our thanks go to those who supported recent exhibitions and displays: Ronnie Scott’s, Serious & the EFG London Jazz Festival, Pizza Express Jazz Soho, the 606 Club, the Royal Albert Hall, Bar Chocolat in Bristol, Jazz Hot & Fondaction Boris Vian in Paris, the Arts Lodge in Portsmouth, the Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival. Thanks also to photographer Brian O’Connor for recording images at the Royal Albert Hall.RAH Info Board 11 pdf 1 '16

RAH Info Board 2 pdf 1 '16

Two of many supporting displays about David’s work at the Royal Albert Hall 



The journey so far...


David and Malcolm Sinclair launched SinclairJazz in 2015 to promote the unique jazz photography of David Sinclair and enable easier acquisition of his work by collectors. This website builds upon the original site David established 15 years ago: Jazz Photographs 
Malcolm with DeeDee Bridgwater at the 2014 London Jazz Festival

Malcolm with DeeDee Bridgwater at the London Jazz Festival

SinclairJazz is run by David’s son Malcolm who can be contacted at @ regarding sales, exhibitions, site improvements or any aspect of David’s work. Exhibitions have been held in London, Paris, Bristol and Portsmouth. David’s work is also often displayed, with watermarks, on Jazz Photographs on Facebook and @SinclairJazz on Twitter.

McCoy Tyner at the London Jazz Cafe 2003

David Sinclair

2001 image of the great Max Roach who first recorded in 1943 with Coleman Hawkins

David with Mari Wilson & Claire Martin at his 2015 Royal Albert Hall Exhibition

David Sinclair has been photographing the world’s leading jazz musicians for over 25 years. His work has been used regularly by the media and music industry, in the UK and internationally, in print, on CD covers and in jazz books and publications.

Founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet, John Lewis, Fairfield Halls, 1991

“It’s a sign that you have ‘made it’ as a jazz club if you have some Sinclairs on the wall” (Simon Cooke, Managing Director Ronnie Scotts 2015).
“His photographs are a kaleidoscope of my life” (Michael Connarty, former chair of the Parliamentary Jazz Awards)


Julian Joseph with David in 2015 – Royal Albert Hall Exhibition

Many of David’s photographs reflect the close relationships he has developed with numerous international and homegrown musicians, in jazz, blues, folk and rock, particularly through his work at Ronnie Scotts. He is often commented upon by musicians as being the photographer who takes the least images and gets out of the way the quickest, so that they can play their music and others can enjoy the performance.

John Critchinson, David and Dave Green also at the Royal Albert Hall

David has published and sold photographs internationally for many years, and was patron for Jazz Hot’s 80th Anniversary in France in 2015. More than 25 years ago David’s work started on the walls of the Bulls Head in Barnes, in south-west London. These days his photographs can be seen covering the walls in clubs across the city, particularly at Ronnies, The 606, and Pizza Express Jazz Clubs.
David has been disabled for all his adult life, needing a walking stick at all times. Once, when photographing McCoy Tyner, his stick fell onto the stage and broke: the band stopped playing and made him a replacement with a broom handle!
In 2014 his legs were further damaged in a car crash and he is now unable to walk more than short distances. Since 2014, David has scaled back his photography activities, but has still made occasional visits to Ronnie Scotts and the London Jazz Festival to see and photograph old friends including Abdullah Ibrahim, DeeDee Bridgwater, Joe Lovano, Robert Glasper, Archie Shepp, Hugh Masekela, and the Average White Band.

The Average White Band back in 1994


These images represent one man’s work over a quarter of a century. Each and every image is copyright to and the legal property of David Sinclair. Any unauthorised copying, duplication or other use of any image without express and written permission from SinclairJazz is strictly prohibited. We regularly search the internet for unauthorised image usage and will take assertive action if this occurs.

David in his own words

“I have always loved music. It started with my mother playing boogie-woogie and Chopin on the piano at home in Edinburgh. Then I fell in love with the clarinet: Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Klezmer.
My first live photograph was in the late 80’s, at my local arts centre in Surrey: US Trumpeter Wild Bill Davison. Soon after, the Ronnie Scott Quintet played there. The photograph I took that night of Ronnie sitting unaware is still one of my favourites.
My first photograph of Ronnie, which led to a lovely friendship. "A great guy"

My first photograph of Ronnie, which led to a great friendship. “A great guy”

Soon after printing it in my darkroom, I rang him to ask if he would please sign it for me. He said “Sure, bring it along”. He gave my wife and I a table, watching Cedar Walton, and later signed the picture ” To a Great Guy. Ronnie “. I was of course delighted, particularly as he felt I was special… 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 !



Pete King with Elvin Jones – two much missed great friends to Ronnies and myself

Regular visits with my camera to the Bulls Head in Barnes followed, to see the likes of Stan Tracey and Don Weller. My photos started to go up on their walls and I began to feel like a Jazz Photographer. I rang Ronnie Scotts, asking Pete King if I could come to the club to take photos. NO was his pointed reply: he always had a soft heart. A few months later, I was very surprised, and overjoyed, to get a call from Pete who, in his charming fashion, said “bring your bloody camera up if you want to.”
I, with David Redfern, had exclusive access to Ronnies for 25 years and also shot regularly in Soho Pizza Express, 606 Club, Vortex, and at events in Barbican, Festival Hall, Albert Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall. Originally using a Minolta 35mm and then moving on to a second hand Nikon 35mm and a Rolleiflex. I now use a Nikon D800 and occasionally my beloved Leica M6.
It has been a pleasure getting to know the hundreds of musicians both US and UK, who have played in Ronnies and other venues.
This copyright photograph may be used for PR use only, it can not be used for CD, DVD, Video, Record, Cassette, Poster or any other purpose without specific written permission from the copyright owner, David Sinclair.

“Cousin” Hugh Masekela

Highlights have included tracing Scottish ancestry for Hugh Masekela (strange but true, I have always felt that he and I were cousins), having Abdullah Ibrahim break off from rehearsals to sing several standards for Kathy my wife, and having Gwilym Simcock come to my house to play for Kathy towards the end of her life. Lastly, I have a particular admiration for the saxophonist Art Themen, not only for the music I have seen him play so well, from the Bulls Head in the 90’s to the present day, but because in his time as Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Reading Hospital he operated on my legs successfully correcting prior mistakes of other surgeons.”
Art Themen (sax) receiving well deserved birthday congratulations from Steve Rubie at the 606 in 2008

Art Themen (sax) receiving well deserved birthday congratulations from Steve Rubie at the 606 in 2008

This website is a development from my previous jazzphotographs site. My son Malcolm 

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