Today represents a huge loss for the jazz community, and entire music industry around the world. David Brubeck, one of the most legendary jazz pianists ever, sadly passed away, at the age of 91.
His song Take Five, to this day, is the most played song in the long history of jazz music, and I can say that I was once very fortunate to meet him.
In 2007, I was one of the staff photographers for Berks Jazz Festival, in Reading, PA. Knowing how significant David has been throughout his lifetime, I couldn’t help but do anything I could to meet, and hopefully photograph a quick portrait of him.
My wishes were met, as the festival organizers asked me to come backstage, about 5 minutes before he was to perform. Of course, this wasn’t for a formal portrait session, but rather to take a few photos of Mr. Brubeck with the Mayor of Reading, the festival founders, donors, etc.
One of the truly best moments i’ve ever had as a photographer, happened at this very moment. I looked at David, told him how much of a pleasure it was to meet him, and reached out to shake his hand.
He looked at me, smiled, and said, “I don’t shake hands”. For a moment, I was a bit shocked, thinking he was maybe too good for that– which I actually would have been completely ok with. After all, I was in the presence of a living legend, for whom I had the utmost respect, and was still performing concerts to thousands of fans worldwide, at the age of 87.
Just after he said that, he lifted his right arm, reached out his elbow to me, and we bumped elbows. Apparently, a few years prior to this, someone had shaken his hand too hard, and broke a finger– so this was his new way of introducing himself.
As he was speaking with the crowd backstage, I snapped off a few photos– nothing fancy at all- basic bounce flash, and my good ol’ Nikon D70s and D200, at the time. Whenever he wasn’t talking, I tried to get his attention, and ended up with two or three decent candid portraits of him.
He then went on-stage to play one of the most truly amazing performances I’ve ever had the chance to photograph– or even go to as a spectator.
I got to shoot the whole show, and ended up with a few decent frames from the night.
He was a true gentlemen, one hell of a performer, and will be remembered, quite fondly, for a long, long time.