Francis Wolff

Hank Mobley II

About this photograph

The many photographs taken by Francis Wolff portray the golden age of jazz and the leading names of the famed Blue Note Records label. Taken in black and white, often as low angle shots, they highlight the close relationship between the photographer and the musicians ? whose personality traits and obvious energy Wolff liked to reveal. These shots forged an image of jazz and resulted from the high-level meeting of two art forms. American Hank Mobley (1930?1986) was an important representative of hard bop jazz. He was the leading saxophonist for Art Blakey?s group, known as the Jazz Messengers, which lead to his fame. He became one of Blue Note?s most recorded saxophonists. This photograph was taken at the Columbus Circle subway exit in New York in 1963 and was used as the cover image for the famous album ?No Room For Squares?.

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The Artist
Francis Wolff

Francis Wolff was born in Berlin in 1907. He met Alfred Lion when he was 15 years old and already a jazz and photography enthusiast. Their shared love for this new music cemented their friendship. In 1933, Lion emigrated to American soils. Wolf pursued a brilliant career as a photographer and collected records in spite of the Third Reich’s rise to power. In 1939, he had to face facts and escape Nazi Germany. He reached New York in October. He moved into Alfred Lion’s apartment. This place had also been the head office of a brand new jazz label ‘Blue note’ for about ten months. Wolff worked retouching in a photography studio in the daytime and in the evening was devoted to managing the label. The label developed and soon Wolff devoted all his time to it. He did however take his camera to each recording session for 28 years. He therefore photographed an important part of the history of jazz and its legends.In 1951, with the advent of the LP, and the imminent importance of record covers, the photographs taken by Francis Wolff became primordial for Blue Note. In 1967, Alfred Lion retired and Wolff took over the role of producer. He had to relinquish his photography. He remained at the helm of Blue Note until his death in 1971.

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