Matt Verta-Ray

Andre Williams in Nortonville

Andre Williams emerged from the cave-like stockroom/office of Billy and Miriam's Brooklyn loft - aka Nortonville - and gave me a sweet hug hello. A few minutes later in the hallway outside he came out with a wardrobe question, asking if his silk thermal underwear was causing his suit slacks to bunch. Without a pause he unbuttoned his pants, pulled down the thermals to show me matter-of-factly his boxer briefs and we both agreed non-nonchalantly that maybe the photo would be better without all the static electricity. But Andre Williams is a man with electricity to spare. His contributions to rhythm and blues, soul, and rock 'n roll are unique. His trademark sound is the smooth, poetic spoken raps about Cadillac driving hustlers, underage girlfriends and greasy soul food related dances. He was a restless operator then and he still is today.

The portrait below is the first in a series of stripped down and direct B&W portraiture I'd like to do of significant innovators in the history of record making. This is a digital proof shot prior to loading up a few rolls in a recently acquired Hasselblad 500c/m. The film is at the lab but I thought I'd put this post together anyway.

It was really great to spend the day with the very nice and insanely knowledgeable Billy and Miriam of Norton records whose Prospect Park loft is both a warehouse of Norton goodies and a candy store of music artifacts and ephemera (not the least of which was a pair of show posters in the bathroom depicting a Siamese twin gospel duo.)

Andre and Miriam going over some lyrics, post-sandwiches.

After the portrait session we did some impromptu promo shots of Andre with his new book, Sweets, and his new Sweets-inspired perfume, Bait and Switch which you can see (and buy) at the Norton website

Later in the day I was able to tag along to a recording session at N.Y.HED studios where Andre was to lay down vocal tracks for a Nolan Strong tribute in the works. Andre was the consummate professional and it was a trip to be in the room with a man who on top of his songwriting and performing credits had produced records with the Contours, Bobby Bland, Alvin Cash and the Crawlers and Ike Turner.

Please enjoy the shots from the studio. Matt Verta-Ray was running the deck.

This week I am going to spend a few days in Detroit and will hopefully get to meet a few interesting people there too.