Italian photographer Roberto Masotti, an old friend and close associate of ours, has died, following a period of illness. Roberto‘s photos are to be seen on around 200 ECM covers and booklets, beginning with Keith Jarrett’s Bremen/Lausanne box set in 1973. Through the 1970s he regularly commuted between his home in Milan and the recording studios of Oslo and Ludwigsburg, photographing many sessions. From 1979 to 1996, Roberto was, together with his wife Silvia Lelli, official photographer at La Scala Milano, documenting classical music, opera and ballet.
In parallel, he also worked as a promoter for ECM, in conjunction with Italian distributors Giucar and Ducale, and was a regular presence at the label’s events around Europe. With Manfred Eicher and Dieter Rehm, he curated the first major exhibition of ECM cover art, headlined Se brami vedere, ascolta [You Wish To See, Listen, after St. Bernard de Clairvaux] at Ferrara‘s Palazzo Massari in 1990. Beneath the trees in the grounds of the Palazzo he photographed a statue of a youth, which later became the cover image of Officium by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble. Roberto’s tastes as a listener often gravitated toward the experimental, and his portfolio included every major figure of the respective avant-gardes of improvisation and contemporary composition. A striking portrait of John Cage in his New York loft adorned Hebert Henck’s recording of Cage’s Early Piano Music. A massive blow-up of Roberto’s shot of the Art Ensemble of Chicago in action at the Bergamo Festival greeted visitors to the ECM exhibition, A Cultural Archaeology at Munich’s Haus der Kunst.
Roberto Masotti published several books of his photos. These included Keith Jarrett: A Portrait, chronicling performances and sessions from 1969 to 2009: with images of Jarrett’s American Quartet (with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian), the Belonging group (with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen), the Standards trio (with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette), and solo concerts.
Photo: still from the documentary by Ingo Biermann