Geist resident promotes Indy jazz with photos


Mark Sheldon has been photographing musicians for 40 years. In particular, the Geist resident is well known for photographing jazz musicians.

“I don’t remember a time in my life when music wasn’t important,” Sheldon said. “Even as a little kid I was enthralled with music, period. I got my first camera when I was 18. I understood documenting events around your life (and) in my case it happens to be music. I shoot for various jazz and blues magazines. In the past 20 years, it’s been primarily photographing jazz and blues.”

Mark Sheldon pauses with photos from the Indianapolis jazz scene. (Submitted photo)

Sheldon has taken photos at the Indianapolis Jazz Festival for several years. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festival will be virtual with “Celebrate Naptown,” a four-part online concert series beginning Nov. 13. The concerts will be released free with a fundraising goal of $25,000.

The events are:

  • “Celebrate Naptown All-Star Show,” 8 p.m. Nov. 13, which was recorded at Garfield Park in September in Indianapolis. The all-star mash-up features more than 25 of Indy’s best jazz performers.
  • Native Son, a hip-hop trio featuring Richard Floyd (drums) Brandon Meeks (bass) and Bobby Young (MC), will present a hip-hop/jazz suite titled “Legalize Being Black” at 8 p.m. Nov. 14.
  • Charlie Ballantine will present his music from his album paying tribute to Indianapolis writer Kurt Vonnegut at 8 p.m. Nov. 20,
  • Jared Thompson & Premium Blend will present a concert at 8 p.m. Nov. 21.

All the performances have been recorded but have not been shown anywhere, Sheldon said.

“Several of the bands added additional horns sections,” Sheldon said. “A lot of them added spoken word. Some have added string ensembles and things like that. Even if you know the bands and have seen them, it will be a completely different look to them. If you’ve seen Premium Blend, it’s a quartet. This time around, it’s an eight-piece band. It’s a really special performance by each of these bands.”

Prior to the pandemic, Sheldon said he shot photos at as many as 10 shows a week.

“There were some nights I would shoot three shows a week at different venues,” said Sheldon, who is a member of the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation Board and chair of the legacy subcommittee within the board. “Indianapolis has a rich history of jazz.

“Photographing musicians for a long time, I’ve always understood the importance of the legacy of the musicians.”

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