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A Camera's Eye View: Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2009

By Published: August 29, 2009
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
: Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier de la Place des Arts, July 3, 7:30 pm

I've planned this in my head for years. I've interviewed Bennett, and it was a marvelous conversation. I found him delightful and informative. It was not a pop star mish mash of nonsense talk—it was all about art at its highest level.

I knew going in this would be a battle zone. The money shooters would be there, so my thought was arrive early, stake a position and hold firm. Dead on! Both sides of the stage were flanked by three to four hundred mil lens—even a couple point-and-shoots tried to claim territory.

The stage was a shooter's delight—blank, no microphone stand, music stand or galley of musicians. In fact, the players were pushed far enough back to allow Bennett enough space to jog a half mile if he chose. It didn't matter which side the photographers positioned themselves, the man would be there in a matter of seconds.

The show opened with Bennett's daughter Antonia, who for her part gave a fair reading of the material, yet sent a wave of fear through the minds of photographers—would her father's time on stage be cut short?

When Bennett arrived, kissed and embraced his daughter, it was monumental. Light shined on the man like a magnified ray of gracious sunshine. Every detail, from shoe shine to crease in that broad loving smile, could be recorded. And the voice, my goodness, what a voice! It yanked at the nerve center. Then he came again with hands held high—pause—smile—big, earth cracking note—click, click—another shot to file.

This shoot was easy. Music poured and rolled in large waves and flooded the room with warmth and vitality. I love this man!

I observed Bennett command every inch of the stage—a slow walk to the right, a turn, a small hand gesture, a slow turn and back the way he had come. On cue, there he was moving closer, as if he had read my mind.

The third song was a ballad. By now I was exhausted—not from the number of spent frames, but from the emotional intensity Bennett compressed into every song. I mostly stood and humbly watched. Somewhere, after an abbreviated solo, the voice returned and I witnessed the veins in his neck gather. His face looked muscular like a weightlifter squeezing a world record from one last lift. The volume had bone-crushing intensity when suddenly I felt a ripple of tears flow down my face. I shook my head and wiped the moisture aside. The note eventually lifted, leaving the audience to scream ecstatically. Meanwhile, the scene stealers were heading toward the exit with plenty of images stored in both memory banks. I felt a bit embarrassed, like I had folded under the pressure, until I saw my partner Kristine clutching a Kleenex and gently dabbing her eyes.

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