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Jammin’ The Blues by Gjon Mili

Created under the guidance of jazz impresario and Verve Records founder Norman Granz, and directed by Albanian LIFE magazine photographer Gjon Mili, this rare short captures the spontaneity of a jazz jam session. This one of few film that records iconic 1940s jazzmen such as Lester Young, Red Callender, Harry Edison, “Big” Sid Catlett, Illinois Jacquet, Barney Kessel, Jo Jones and Marie Bryant.

Mili did not serve as cinematographer for the film (Robert Burks did) but the film used multiplied images that in many ways recall the multi-image still-frames done with the strobe. The imaginative use of the camera makes this film a minor landmark in the way that musicians have been filmed.

About The Author

Gjon Mili spent his childhood in Romania, attending Gheorghe Lazăr National College in Bucharest, and migrating to the United States in 1923. In 1939, Mili started to work as a photographer for Life (a position he held until he died in 1984). Over the years his assignments took him to the Riviera (Picasso); to Prades, France (Pau Casals in exile); to Israel (Adolf Eichmann in captivity); to Florence, Athens, Dublin, Berlin, Venice, Rome, and to Hollywood to photograph celebrities and artists, sports events, concerts, sculptures and architecture.

Working with Harold Eugene Edgerton of MIT, Gjon Mili was a pioneer in the use of stroboscopic instruments to capture a sequence of actions in one photograph. Trained as an engineer and self-taught in photography, Gjon Mili was one of the first to use electronic flash and stroboscopic light to create photographs that had more than scientific interest. Many of his notable images revealed the beautiful intricacy and graceful flow of movement too rapid or complex for the naked eye to discern. In the mid-1940s he was an assistant to the photographer Edward Weston.

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