[JPL] jazz photographer Katsuji Abe R.I.P.

Jazz Promo Services jazzpromo at earthlink.net
Thu Sep 18 11:22:12 EDT 2008

I'm sad to report the passing on the evening of Sep 17 of my friend, jazz
photographer Katsuji Abe, in Tokyo.  Abe was a pioneer in photographic
processing having invented a process he called JazzChrome whereby black and
white negatives could yield color prints.  The name of the process is
derived by the fact that it was not possible to control the exact tint or
colors in the resulting print, thus each JazzChrome print from the same
negative was different, much as jazz musicians never play the same tune the
same way twice.

Two of his photos appear in the Ellington autobiography "Music Is My
Mistress."  Unfortunately, there was a fault with the credits in the book
and he received credit for a photo that wasn't his, while one that was his
received no credit.  The latter photo was used by an artist commissioned by
the US Postal Service to design the Ellington stamp.  It wasn't until Abe
received some letters from the USA with the stamp that he realized that it
was his photo that was used for the design.  The Postal Service later gave
him $500 (the standard artist fee) and a gold leaf embossed presentation
folder with a sheet of the stamp after admitting that they had failed secure
the necessary written legal release from the book's publisher.

Abee was fairly well known in the jazz community and had made several trips
to the US, although none in the last 15 or 20 years.

There is a Jim Hall album titled "Textures" on which there is a tune titled
"Sazanami" (which means 'rippling waves') that was dedicated to Katsuji Abe
who was a friend of Hall's.


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