‘A Jazz Memoir’ reveals an intimate look at legendary American jazz artists

Photographer Herb Snitzer said, “Jazz is a statement about a people’s desire and thirst for freedom. And with freedom, individuality and a sense of self-worth. We must salute jazz musicians, not only as jazz artists but as American artists.

Snitzer’s works are the subject of a major exhibition at the Bremen Museum. “A Jazz Memoir: Photography by Herb Snitzer” features intimate photographs of jazz icons like Nina Simone, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and many more. “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with Snitzer and exhibit curator Tony Casadonte.

“A Jazz Memoir: Photography by Herb Snitzer” features intimate photographs of jazz icons.

This exhibit features photographs documenting the American jazz scene, focusing on 1957-1964, its more than 50-year career. These photographs were taken while he was working as a freelancer for Metronomea magazine primarily focused on jazz.

“The focus of the exhibition for this period was that it was a very rich period, marked by many social changes, and Herb was there at the heart of this period. It was the heart of his work. Herb is still a working photographer,” Casadont said.

At 87, Snitzer is still documenting social injustice and activism. Other works in the exhibition reveal his desire to use photography to effect social change. He believes that “injustice for one is injustice for all”.

“It’s interesting to see how this exhibition has transformed over time, because originally we were supposed to open it in April and it was supposed to run alongside the jazz festival. [By postponing the exhibit] We were able to add more information and the depth of Herb’s work. And social issues [are] almost a competing number because these social issues go back to the 1950s and run into 2016. So there’s an arch to that as well, and it was nice to show both sides,” Casadonte continued.

“A Jazz Memoir” also talks about the ties that unite Jews, jazz and the African-American community.

“A Jazz Memoir: Photography by Herb Snitzer” features intimate photographs of jazz icons.

“There were a lot of Jewish photographers who photographed jazz; most of them are gone now. I think I’m one of the few who outlived everyone. The connection is an obvious one – the struggle of Jews in America, the struggle of jazz musicians to live free from the fear of cops… what I always felt was a tragic moment in the history of black relations and the Jews…certainly with the Civil Rights Movement, in which I was involved. These two groups came together and realized they were ready to come together,” Snitzer said.

The exhibition will open virtually on September 17 and will be on display until March 31, 2021. Private tours and small screenings will be available at a later date.

Ada J. Kenney