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‘Great Women of Jazz,’ then and now, in focus

One of TimesLedger’s own, freelance photographer Norm Harris, is commemorating women jazz players in an exhibition at the Freeport Recreation Center this August.

“I wanted to showcase them as major contributors, if not innovators, to the world of jazz,” Harris said of his photographic subjects. “I fell in love with their music.”

Harris has been capturing jazz artists at New York performances for more than 15 years and has taken special interest in women jazz musicians, whom he said are underserved.

His exhibition in Freeport, entitled “Great Women of Jazz, Past, Present and Future,” features both 93-year-old Marian McPartland of NPR’s “Piano Jazz” program and 27-year-old Esperanza Spalding, winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for best new artist.

Other artists photographed include Jane Ira Bloom, the only jazz musician commissioned to compose music for NASA’s art program, as well as premier drummist Cindy Blackman, who recently married legendary jazz guitarist Carlos Santana.

The nine images are selections from a larger exhibition Harris held in Manhattan a few years ago, consisting of both color and black-and-white portrait and action shots. Each piece is accompanied by a brief biography written by Harris.

Harris hopes that his work can convey to viewers “the spirit of the artists and the intensity of their dedication to the music.”

“[The exhibit] is a mix of all different types because I love their music,” he said.

Born in Harlem, Harris began taking photographs as a child when his mother let him use a Brownie camera during a trip to the Niagara Falls.

Later, he picked up photography as a soldier in the Vietnam War. After his return to the United States in 1970, Harris began pursuing photography full-time with only one lesson from a staffer at Life Magazine.

“I’m a self-taught photographer,” he said.

Harris now covers entertainment venues all over the New York City area and is a member of the Long Island Arts Council.

“He is a very skilled photographer,” said Marnie Katzman, executive director of the Long Island Arts Council at Freeport. “I hope people talk about the work and be inspired by the work. If it gets people thinking, talking and communicating it will be worth it.”

Located at 130 East Merrick Rd. in Freeport, the Art Alcove at the Freeport Recreation Center is open during regular business hours, although the exhibit can be viewed through the glass seven days a week. Harris’ work will be on display until Sept. 1.

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