Photoessay: Mokhtar Samba and the African Jazz Project

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I have a dirty little secret. I like to shoot jazz concerts at small venues. Wednesdays, Thursdays and by special appointment. It’s something I did perhaps ten years ago, shortly after starting photography seriously; I’ve done it on and off a few times since when time and opportunity permits. The music came first; I’m very much tone deaf but can still appreciate it. The camera came along after being invited to shoot by some of the venue owners, and stayed since. Today’s set is from Mokhtar Samba and the African Jazz Project at No Black Tie in Kuala Lumpur from a couple of months back. You may recognise some of the images from the photographing concerts article. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D5500, Zeiss 1.4/55 Otus and Leica Q, and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Bespoke Queenstown landscape and The Lisbon Masterclass (9-14 Mar 2016) are now open for booking


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Wonderful images …. and yes I agree I also love these small venues such as No Black Tie.

  2. Beautiful set Ming. I also love jazz and love the mood you’ve captured here. The tones are also gorgeous!!

  3. L. Ron Hubbard says:

    Visit the Green Mill the next time you are in Chicago. One of the oldest jazz clubs in the world, running since 1908 if I remember correctly. TONS of ambiance there.

  4. Michiel953 says:

    Really lovely series to through Ming. I think I like the one where the drummer is looking away (and “brushing” I think; had to look that up). The approach on exposure seems pretty daunting. Did you trust auto aperture priority, or did you go manual, take some readings of the bits that had light falling on them, overexpose by one (two, probably) stops, trust that would be more or less the same for all shots, and wing it from there?

    I’m actually going to a Pen F (ha ha) presentation in FOAM museum later today, brought my FM3a with 35/1.4AiS and Tri-X rated at 800, and will probably do the same approach…

    Thought I’d upstage the retro lovers by bringing a modern real retro camera 😉

  5. My favourite is the lady with a great glasses! Your secret is my pleasure! Thank you.
    Do you have more secrets?

  6. Wish I could be there 🙂 love the B&W set… my favourite has to be the drumer where you shoot from the below. thanks for the sharing. they are so inspiring. just wonder if it’s a broken link here “photographing concerts article”…

  7. Wonderful photos, they really tell the story of the concert. Love the black and white.

  8. Stunning pictures, with some very interesting angles Ming. The one below the drummer, excellent! Great work!

  9. Kristian Wannebo says:


    I believe that B/W emphasizes expressions and faces,
    and that colour would distract from the action
    ( – and not just because it’s jazz..).
    ( As in your recent series from the Thaipusam festival.)

    [ Btw, there are two doublets, nr. 6-20 and 9-21.]

    • Thanks – probably because B&W removes the distraction of peripheral color. No doubles here – perhaps flickr doing something weird (as usual)?

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        “.. removes the distraction ..”
        It does.
        Like when a text is made into a song.
        If the text is strong, the tune has to be simple (bit still good).

        ( Strange flickr.
        Here I see 23 photos and still 6=20 (pianist) and 9=21 (double bass player),
        unless I have missed differences. )

    • I think deep Sepia colours suit Jazz a bit more??? Or is it just my jazz feeling?

  10. A spectacular set, Ming! You must have the music in you somewhere to get these images! To Jazz!!

  11. This is an awesome set! I’m curious, did you employ the IS on the Q?

  12. The tight one with the drummer and the cymbals, that’s just gorgeous. He’s got a lovely head, and the Zen attitude of his being in the moment just comes though in the moment you captured. Beautiful. Awesome. Words are not adequate.

  13. As a jazz fan, I’ve always liked intimate b&w jazz photos. Ming, these are very well done! The shots of the drummer are my favorites as the angles are very creative. Is that Jack Dejohnette on drums?

  14. gong xi fa cai, sifu. such lovely shots, tone deaf in sound but not in light ;). am glad you shared your little secret. thornton lives in my neighbourhood, or at least, i think he still does. he conducts drumming classes to promote the art at a neighbourhood studio.
    regards, ken.

  15. This is a wonderful set Ming! Also, it’s only a secret if you don’t tell anyone about it. 😉

  16. This is so good Ming! I wish you hadn’t kept this a secret for so long!

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