Sixties photographer Roger Kasparian exhibits his unseen shots of jazzmen, from John Coltrane to Duke Ellington


We have discovered in recent years his photos of the merry troupe of yéyés, from Françoise Hardy to Johnny Hallyday. Then we were enthusiastic about his pictures of the juvenile Beatles or Kinks of the sixties. Roger Kasparian is exhibiting today his unpublished images of figures of American jazz, captured in Paris sixty years ago.

Emerged from the shadows seven years ago, the little-known French photographer Roger Kasparian has since unveiled an impressive treasure: hundreds of photos of singers, singers and musicians taken in the sixties which had been dormant in his personal archives for forty years pending. to see the light.

Freelance journalist for the press from 1962 and for a decade, Roger Kasparian, son of a photographer, fixed on film dozens of artists and in particular the whole tribe of French yéyés, his favorite subject, from Françoise Hardy to Johnny Hallyday . He also followed all the Anglo-Saxon musicians passing through Paris, from their descent from the plane to their evening concert.

American jazz drummer Kenny Clarke in Paris in 1961. (ROGER KASPARIAN)

We have already been able to admire his delightful photos of the juvenile Beatles, Who, Kinks and other Animals. But he still kept some under the sole: those of the great family of American jazz having stopped in Paris, a popular destination for jazzmen in the sixties.

American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald in concert at the Olympia (Paris) in 1963.
American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald in concert at the Olympia (Paris) in 1963. (ROGER KASPARIAN)

These days and until October 30 at Studio Boissière (Montreuil), he exhibits about twenty silver prints of big names in jazz, often in black and white but also in color, mostly unpublished photos showing Ella Fitzgerald in the Olympia, Art Blakey on stage but also in his room in an orange bathrobe, John Coltrane and Ray Charles at the airport, Duke Ellington seated at his hotel, Thelonious Monk and his wife in Orly…

American singer, pianist and composer Ray Charles upon his arrival at Orly airport near Paris in 1963.
The American singer, pianist and composer Ray Charles upon his arrival at Orly airport near Paris in 1963. (ROGER KASPARIAN)

Established photographers took jazzmen mostly on stage, so I did the opposite“, tells us Roger Kasparian, who sought to distinguish himself to sell his pictures to magazines.

I picked them up as soon as they arrived at the airport and then followed them to hotels, restaurants and up to the club concert. I was extremely discreet to go as far as possible in their privacy, to capture them naturally, without preparations or staging“And as always, seeking to make the best and most original photo in the world, this technician born in a photo studio often found the right angle of view and the best light.

Duke Ellington seated in his Parisian hotel room in 1963.
Duke Ellington seated in his Parisian hotel room, in 1963. (ROGER KASPARIAN)

According to him, his pictures “trace the time. The fans were real jazz buffs, connoisseurs. It was a fairly closed, intellectual, elitist environment. They knew the smallest dates, the concerts, the instruments. It was a rather snobbish fauna, not at all the same entourage as that of Johnny Hallyday. I wasn’t introduced, so I mostly tried not to stand out and bring back some good pictures. “

He was getting so small that some, he thinks, didn’t even notice his presence. “I had been warned against Thelonious Monk: beware, it is not convenient! However, I followed him throughout his journey and it did not go badly. In fact, I don’t even know if he saw me. He had come with his wife Nelly who had a particular look. She was thin and tall, always with a cigarette holder, while he was massive and strong, it made a strange couple. ”

American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his wife Nelly, at Orly airport in 1963.
The American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his wife Nelly, at Orly airport in 1963. (ROGER KASPARIAN)

His photo taken at Orly airport of Thelonious and Nelly Monk, whose face we know little about, is also one of the nuggets of this exhibition. Next to Thelonious putting on a pair of white gloves, Nelly Monk is immortalized in profile with her black cigarette holder in her mouth, and from a distance, the cigarette and its curls of smoke seem to float in suspension 10 cm from her face. Magical.

Sonny Rollins? “He was shopping, so I went with him. I didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak French, so communication was limited. But he was smiling all the time“, recalls Roger Kasparian.

American jazz saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins in Paris & nbsp; in 1963.
The American jazz saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins in Paris in 1963. (ROGER KASPARIAN)

Nina Simone, no one had told me anything about her, but seeing the character at the piano on a television set, I told myself that she was a woman of character and that it was better not to be in her sights. But I still approached until I took close-ups.

American singer, pianist, songwriter and songwriter Nina Simone, on a television show in Paris in 1968.
American singer, pianist, songwriter and songwriter Nina Simone, on a television show in Paris in 1968. (ROGER KASPARIAN)

Roger Kasparian admits it without embarrassment: if he followed all these jazz artists, it was not out of immoderate love for their music but because this Aznavour fan was looking, via Jazz Magazine, to be noticed by Daniel Filipacchi, boss of Hi buddies, where he dreamed of being engaged. “It never happened, but at least I tried“.

The Roger Kasparian exhibition-sale “For those who love jazz” is extended until October 30
Studio Boissière, 268 Boulevard Aristide Briand 93100 Montreuil
Note for Saturday October 25 an Open Jam Jazz open to all musicians, with drummer Emmanuel Calixte, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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