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Jazz Notes: Photographer Adriana Mateo’s Exhibit at WBGO Spiritually Shows How She Engages With Her Subject

By Dan Ouellette, Senior Editor ZEALnyc, September 5, 2017

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the New York-based photographer since 1992 Adriana Mateo not only engages the viewer with her art work but also in the process of capturing her image makes an intimate connection with the artists themselves. That takes her photography into a rare space where communication between artists makes the exchange special. She has said, “Since photos speak louder than words, it’s great to see all of these talented musicians captured at a given moment.” American producer, drummer, singer/songwriter Narada Michael Walden said, “The main thing I observe in Adriana’s clear black-and-white art work is her capturing the passion that goes deep in the true heart and soul of the musician.”

The daughter of award-winning Argentine director of photography Roberto Mateo, Adriana fell in love with jazz when she was 10 thanks to her dad playing Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie and bossa nova around the house. She discovered in going to concerts with her father that “when I receive sound, I create emotion and images,” she said. “I wanted to photograph music, especially jazz, with its symmetry of sound.”

It’s also a mystical endeavor for Mateo, who said while at the Umbria Jazz Festival this past summer, “I want to catch that vibration, especially the moment that they want to leave behind. Sometimes they call me and ask me to capture the spiritual side.”

Mateo collected 125 of her black-and-white jazz photos into the book AM Jazz: 3 Generations Under the Lens, which is close to selling out. She’s exhibiting 22 of those images at the art studio of jazz radio station, WBGO, in Newark, N.J,, where there will be a festive opening on September 7. That exhibit will continue to tour in different spaces nationally and internationally. (She will also be exhibiting 12-14 photos on September 21 at the SoHo art space of Flos, the Italian company that develops modern lighting designed with architectural grace.)

In this Jazz Notes posting, we’ll include seven of her photos with a thumbnail sketch of each’s background.

Cedar Walton

Cedar Walton; photo: Adriana Mateo.

I spoke with Cedar when I was doing a photo project on the generations in jazz. He was impressed. So he hired me to take photos of him performing at Dizzy’s, then he hired me for the last five years of his life. He was very strict and very polite. One day he called me. I didn’t know he was sick. So he told me to take this photo. He knew exactly what he wanted.

Chick Corea with Herbie Hancock

Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock; photo:Adriana Mateo.

This was taken after their show together at the Umbria Jazz Festival. It was backstage where most photographers don’t have access to. Carlo [Pagnotta, the artistic director], and Enzo [Capua, Carlo’s liaison in New York], wanted me to take a photo of the two as friends—not playing together—so the photo could show the personal connection they have.

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding; photo: Adriana Mateo.

This was taken at a private show that was raising funds for [the nonprofit organization] Free the Slaves. I was hired by her to take photos for the foundation. You can see how inspired she’s playing.

Mulgrew Miller

Mulgrew Miller; photo: Adriana Mateo.

We met at Umbria. He knew my photography and admired it. He asked me to take this photo at soundcheck. We loved them. It was a very special, spiritual connection. I went home and developed the photos. I called and there was no answer. Later I learned he had been very ill and had passed away. So the photos were never published.

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove: photo: Adriana Mateo.

In 2009 I told Roy about my vision for a book that would be about the different jazz generations. He told me he wanted to be a part of it. Today, he’s got a new band and he’s playing at a level that’s better than when he was younger.

Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins; photo: Adriana Mateo.

Sonny asked me to take this. He was not feeling well at the tine. This was one of the last photos taken of him before he retired. Backstage he asked me to take a photo of him live. But only if I catch him looking at the lens. He waited while he was playing, and I was on a mission.

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter; photo: Adriana Mateo.

Wayne was onstage and I was on the side. He didn’t usually like photos taken of him from that point if view. But he wanted me to take a portrait of him right before he was going into the music.

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Cover: Adriana Mateo; courtesy of artist.


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