by Nat Frothingham
PLAINFIELD — Dee Kalea of Creative Music Photography, Plainfield, will present a one-day, pop-up exhibit of her Jazz, Latin and Brazilian photographs of current and past musical performing greats on Friday, June 2 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the New City Galerie at 132 Church Street in downtown Burlington just across from City Hall.
Kalea’s exhibit will include original silver prints autographed by the likes of Count Basie, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Sarah Vaughan and Horace Silver. As part of the event there will be a narrated slide show, live music, gourmet treats and what Kalea describes as “a grand silent auction.”
Kalea has been photographing Jazz, Latin and Brazilian musical performing greats since 1964 and the June 2 event is being held in conjunction with South Burlington’s First Friday Art Hop and with the opening of this year’s (June 2—11) Discover Jazz Festival.
Kalea has written a thumbnail sketch of what it was like to grow up in New York City as part of a jazz-connected family.
Her mother and sister, she wrote, “broke ground as the first women working professionally and full-time in New York’s music business. They started out as secretaries,” she continued. But that changed. “My mother was Ray Charles’ personal assistant, helping to initiate his Tangerine Records. My aunt worked alongside Quincy Jones (in artists and repertoire). The Village Vanguard was my earliest baby-sitter, as both women also helped with booking there, as well as the original Five Spot Café and The Village Gate.”
With jazz connections like these, it’s little wonder that as a child Kalea’s family home was essentially an extension of the New York jazz club scene with saxophonist and jazz innovator “Ornette Coleman as a stepfather.” Then Kalea had vivid memories of Thelonious Monk – “who often woke me up playing a tune on ‘my’ beat-up, upright piano at three a.m.”
“When I turned 12,” Kalea wrote, “my aunt gave me my first camera, thus beginning my life-long career of documenting musicians at work.”
Kalea’s exhibition at the New City Galerie on June 2 will show her talent in capturing many of the past and some of the still-present musical greats with their instruments — singing with full heart and voice, giving themselves with full percussive energy to a drum set solo, playing the piano, filling a saxophone with life’s breath and passion.
“When I’m photographing musicians, I feel I’m channeling their emotions,” Kalea said during an interview with The Bridge.
But it’s not a one-way street, or as Kalea remarked, “The musicians have consistently told me they can hear their music in my photographs.”
Kalea is now pursuing a project of great personal and public importance: She has been invited to donate her extensive photographic collection for placement in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.
She also wants to share her photographs with students at (university-level) jazz studies programs across the country.
But in order to do this, she needs to raise $10,000 to print and frame her images up to a rigorous archival standard.
To achieve this goal, Kalea has created an “Indiegogo” crowd funding campaign at this online address: : https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/preserving-historic-jazz-images-photography-educational#/
For Kalea, it’s been a pretty amazing trip from her Manhattan family home with Thelonious Monk on the piano at three a.m. and a chance to place her photo collection at the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress. But then again, the jazz greats that inhabit her photographs have both told her and never stopped telling her: “Kalea, I can hear my music in your pictures.”