David Sinclair

25 mach 2019
29 january 1935, Edimbourg, Ecosse - 25 March 2019, Melksham, Wiltshire, Angleterre
© Jazz Hot 2019
David sinclair, self Portrait © David Sinclair

David Sinclair, self portrait
© David Sinclair

David, James Alexander, Sinclair, a great photographer, and especially of jazz, «our» very dear David who gave us the honour of his friendship and participation with the Jazz Hot team since 1991, came to take the key to the Elysian Fields on the 25th March 2019, there where the heroes and the virtuous reunite after crossing the Styx.

He was, without doubt, a photographic hero, despite his late vocation, reactivated by his late companion Kathy, who gave him a present of a quality camera in the 1980s.

From important exhibitions in the Royal Albert Hall, London, to Coston Hall in Bristol and many others in jazz clubs like Ronnie Scott's where he immortalised numerous jazz artists – the legendary owner and saxophonist Ronnie Scott – have happily given homage to the measure of his talent.

David was the same age as the review, and all the beautiful photos that enriched 30 years of articles, Jazz Hot dedicated his portfolios in special editions from 1998 and 2000, and a solo show during Jazz Hot's 80th birthday at the Fond'Action Boris Vian in 2015. For this, David was honorary president, represented on the day by his son, Malcolm, for reasons of serious ill health which never prevented him from developing his art, which he mitigated with typical British humour.
His ancestors were mostly of Scottish and Irish descent. He was very proud of the name Sinclair, which comes from Caithness in the far north of Scotland, and of his origins, always expressed with humour: «I'm determined to maintain whatever Scottishness remains in me.»

As an adolescent David caught tuberculosis. His legs and one of his hands were damaged. He was hospitalised for three years and this left him handicapped for the rest of his life with the permanent use of a cane.

David Sinclair, années 1950 © Photo X by courtesy of Malcolm Sinclair
David Sinclair, in the fifties © Photo X by courtesy of Malcolm Sinclair

In 1950, he moved to London, where the illness kept him in the hospital for another 3 years. This was when he discovered jazz through records and the radio. During the 1950s David began working for the London newspapers, then in Ghana and Nigeria for the production company Pearl & Dean. He returned to England and married his wife Kathy in 1959. Malcolm, his son, born in 1961,  helped David to look after the archives and the preparation of his exhibitions.

The years 1960-70 were dedicated to his professional activities (as an estate agent), even if the jazz and the photography of his adolescence continued to occupy his thoughts.

David Sinclair, self portrait © David Sinclair

David Sinclair,
self portrait
© David Sinclair

It was in 1987 when his wife Kathy gave him a present of a reflex camera of quality, a Minolta, and that David commits himself fully to photography. First of all historical monuments (old English country churches) before harnessing his two passions – jazz and photography – to create the extraordinary results that we now know.

In 1989, David started to take photographs of jazz musicians and, for 25 years, was one of the only authorised photographers in Ronnie Scott's of London where most of the images on the walls are by David. His photographs are on the walls of other London clubs, such as the Pizza Jazz Club and the 606 Club.

David and Jazz Hot met in 1991 through a mutual friend, Marie-Noëlle Corré. It was the beginning of an unfailing friendship and a regular collaboration of exceptional quality, generous and warm, photographic, jazzy of course, but there were also the reviews of life in the London clubs, the London Jazz Festival, published in English and French, Ronnie Scott's, the Pizza Jazz Club, the 606 Club and of course, others are mentioned in the editions of Jazz Hot.  David became a pillar of the clubs where his silhouette, patient, poised and expert, waited for that moment to release. David worked with his Minolta, quicker with a Leica M4 to which he added a Nikon 601. He mostly used rolls of Ilford HP5. His most recent photographs were taken with a Nikon DSLR, but he equally liked his Leica and Rolleiflex. We can find the traces of this assiduous work in the editions of Jazz Hot. Our review can take pride in itself from having made this artist known to readers throughout the world.

Ronnie Scott, l'image préférée de David © David Sinclair

Ronnie Scott,
David's favorite image
© David Sinclair

The photography of David Sinclair, like the art of Charles Delaunay, plays with a deep intense black, and an equally intense white to illustrate the figure (Bob Berg, Joe Beck, Andy Sheppard). The sensitivity of the film is manipulated to accentuate the grain, playing in the greys, always with the presence of the intense black and white (Ronnie Scott, his lucky photo, Frank Lacy, Harry Sweets Edison...). Like a great jazz artist, we recognise the hand of David Sinclair on first sight.

The only difficulty with David is to be spoiled for choice in choosing the photograph, and the quality of the print in the review to translate the subtilty of his art. Throughout the past 30 years we have collectively worked to try to do him justice.
Amongst our most precious memories, I treasure the visit of David and Kathy in Paris for the 70th birthday of Jazz Hot in 2005. His photographs of the team, on the steps of Rue Villiers de l'Isle Adam, are, as always, exceptional.

In nearly 30 years, David had photographed, according to Malcolm, more than 5,500 artists. He was proud of his close friendship with numerous jazz musicians of the United Kingdom, Europe. Africa and the United States. He maintained privileged relationships with both the London Jazz Festival and Jazz Hot. David's most prefered musician to photograph was Sonny Rollins, who illustrated the poster for his major exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall. His prefered music style was traditional swing, notably Harry James and Woody Herman, and clarinettists such as Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Buddy de Franco.

In 2014, David took his retirement as a photographer after a car accident left his legs permanently damaged. He stopped going to see jazz, making an exception to see his special friends such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Hugh Masekela, Robert Glasper and Archie Shepp.

Sonny Rollins © David Sinclair

He left London in 2018 to live in the west of England, to be near his son Malcolm, who gave himself the mission of enhancing David's work. In 2019 David could no longer walk and spent six weeks in bed, at his home, before dying in peace the 25th March 2019.
We share the grief of his son Malcolm, Sarah, his daughter in law, and the circle that was close to him, friends, jazz musicians – and others. The ceremony, the departure of David, takes place on the 11 April 2019 at the cemetery of West Wiltshire, Devizes Road, Semington, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 6HL.
We profoundly loved David who's personality was in the image of his art: finesse, sophistication, originality, loyalty, courage, generosity and humour. David was and will remain, by his attention to detail and of humanity, a permanent inspiration and one of the eminent and symbolic representatives of the Jazz Hot team for the past 30 years.

Yves Sportis
Translation by Sandra Miley
Photos David Sinclair
and X by courtesy of Malcolm Sinclair

David Sinclair et Jazz HotJazz Hot n° Spécial ’98 et Jazz Hot Spécial 2000. Exhibition for the 80th birthday of Jazz Hot at the Fond'Action Boris Vian. The beautiful photographs of David Sinclair can be found in many editions of Jazz Hot from over the past 30 years.

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Sonny Rollins,
David's prefered musician to photograph
© David Sinclair