Gerry Bahl got hooked on Jazz music as a youth in postwar Berlin. He was fifteen when he bought his first camera – an Agfa Isolette. Gerry picked up enough English from the GI’s and Armed Forces Radio Service to land a dream job as tour assistant and translator when Lionel Hampton toured Europe in 1953. A short time later he obtained a Leica camera and began a creative journey that would span several decades.
He arrived in Toronto in the late 1950s to a vibrant jazz scene that flourished until the early 70s. It was common for Gerry to put up touring jazz musicians in his home during this time.
Most of Gerry’s jazz photos were taken at various venues in Toronto; The Colonial Tavern, Bourbon Street Tavern, George’s Spaghetti House, Town Tavern and Old Massey Hall. When shooting, he only used Leica cameras and rarely used a flash or zoom lens. Gerry’s work has been shown in art galleries and has appeared on albums, cd’s and in popular publications like The Village Voice.
In his later years, Gerry’s youthful attitude and active lifestyle inspired young and old alike. He was a skilled photographer, charming orator and passionate storyteller. His controversial opinions and humorous antics made an indelible mark on everyone he met. To hear his stories about music, travel and life was a treat.
Gerry left us on January 30th, 2013 at the ripe age of eighty three. His defiant character helped to overcome many challenges – tuberculosis in his teens and cancer throughout most of his adult life.
Preserving and sharing these great photos with jazz fans around the world is a tribute to Gerry and his passion for jazz music. When you see his photos it’s hard not to hear the sound of jazz.