Photographer Ray Avery Keeps Greats in Focus


The likenesses of such jazz presences as Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong as captured by photographers Ray Avery and Bob Douglas make up an exhibition celebrating Black History Month at the M. Hanks Gallery in Santa Monica. Forty-five works from the Los Angeles-based photographers, many shot in the '50s and '60s, will be on display until March 3.

Avery, known not only for his photography but also for Ray Avery's Rare Records, a jazz record speciality store in Glendale he owned from the early '50s until 1986, has been shooting jazz artists for close to four decades. "I got interested in photography while I was in the Air Force and started professionally in 1953," he recalled. "In the beginning, I shot a lot of album covers for Contemporary and GNP (Gene Norman Presents) Records, anyone from Shelly Manne to Clifford Brown."

The photographer's career soon reached a high point when he was hired to shoot "The Stars of Jazz," a half-hour television show, hosted by pianist/singer/composer Bobby Troup, that originated at KABC and ran in the Southland from 1955-58. "Just about everyone who came to town, or was playing in town, appeared on the show, including Dave Brubeck, June Christy, the Lighthouse All-Stars, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong," said Avery, "because the lighting was so great--they lit the stage so beautifully, which you never get in a club--I got some of my best stuff there. And even though a lot of what I took wasn't used for the show, I've used them on album covers and in books." Avery said many of his photographs in the current exhibition are from "The Stars of Jazz."

Avery had praise for his co-exhibitor Douglas, a superb photographer whose work has been infrequently on public display. "Bob grew up in Detroit and (in the show) he's got some marvelous early stuff of the groups that came there, such as Charlie Parker, Harry (Sweets) Edison and Dizzy Gillespie," Avery said.

Information: (213) 392-8820.

Club Crawl: The current temporary closing of St. Mark's has left Venice minus its only sometime jazz venue, so stepping in to take up the slack is 72 Market Street, which adds one-night-a-week jazz to its restaurant menu tonight with pianist-singer Steve Ferguson's quartet appearing from 10:30 to 12:30. "Steve came in with a quartet for New Year's Eve and since then we've gotten a lot of calls for him," said Gia Gittleson, press agent for the room. "And with St. Mark's closed, people (here) are hungry for jazz." Ferguson appears Saturdays indefinitely, with no cover charge. Information: (213) 392-8720.

With names like trumpeters Conte Candoli and Bill Berry and saxophonists Pete Christlieb and Tommy Newsom on the marquee, it's clear that owner Kathy Hanson has changed things at M.K.'s P.O.V. in Toluca Lake, which formerly had a strict pianist/singers policy. "We have been going with horns on some nights because people like it," Hanson said. "I'm new at (running a club)--I'm also a full-time practicing attorney--so I'm experimenting, mixing it up. Some nights, I have more contemporary music. I have a dance floor and people love to dance." Tonight it's the latter style with Harry Middlebrooks, Terry Gregory; Sunday and Tuesday, it's Berry with pianist Marty Harris; Wednesday, singer Jimmy Spencer arrives, and Thursday through next Saturday, it's pianist Art Hillery, bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Jeff Hamilton. Information: (818) 760-4412.

In the Bins: "Claus Ogerman, featuring Michael Brecker" (GRP) reprises the late '70s collaboration between the composer/orchestrator and the saxophonist. Five extended Ogerman works are performed by an orchestra featuring Brecker, his brother, trumpeter Randy Brecker, keyboardist Alan Pasqua, et al. . . . The late L.A. alto ace Sonny Criss' "Crisscraft" (Muse) sports two engaging Horace Tapscott tunes--the lyrical "The Isle of Celia" and "This Is for Benny"--plus Benny Carter's "Blues in My Heart," and four others. Also on board: guitarist Ray Crawford, bassist Larry Gales, drummer Jimie Smith and late pianist Dolo Coker. . . . Modern mainstream guitarist Joshua Breakstone's latest quartet offering, "4/4=1" (Mobile Fidelity), includes piano whiz Kenny Barron on such numbers as "Cherokee," "Theme for Ernie," "Somebody Loves Me" and 10 others.

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