A Camera's Eye View: Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2009
I observed Bennett command every inch of the stagea 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 exhaustednot 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.
Dave Brubeck: Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier de la Place des Arts, July 4, 7:30 pm
I really expected a media battle for space while attempting to capture a purposeful image of a legend as certified as Brubeck. I know his music like the number of roads leading out of my hometown. Brubeck's music led me through high school and college.
I knew his red hot and cool periodthe cool tone of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and the smooth ride. The music swung with barely a pulse. Brubeck at the time wasn't a favorite among jazz critics who were fixated on the re-harmonizing of jazz by pianist Bill Evans, the express train fingers of Oscar Peterson, the Duke was still aroundso was Teddy Wilsonand Keith Jarrett caught fire with Charles Lloyd. Herbie Hancock was making waves with Miles. Wynton Kelly was still saying all of the right things. The argument was that Brubeck was too rigid, or that he didn't swing long and far or hard enough. Then Time Out (Columbie, 1959) hit, and "Take Five" suddenly became a monstrous hit. Now every kid with an instrument had to master five-four meter. Even the old guard left behind by the dance era, who could read their way through the encyclopedia Britannica, could not get a handle on the peculiar beat, let alone hold it in place.
I had tried on a couple of occasions to catch a decent image of the man I so admire, but failed. The face always seemed to turn towards the shadows. I decided that this night had to be different!
As soon as Brubeck appeared with saxophonist Bobby Militello escorting him to the grand piano, I knew the night would be generous. Brubeck wore what seemed a cream colored jacket and a broad smile. None of us knew he'd lost a son a couple of days before. There was no evidence of that in his composure and comfort behind the piano. Throughout, the smile remained stationary.
The playing was solid Brubeckbig chunky chords and hard swing. I moved a few feet one direction, then to another, trying for a clear view of the hands. This could not be accomplished without standing dead center in the auditorium and offending two thousand plus paid attendees. I kept returning to the face, and what a beautiful face with all of the native features of birthright still in place.
Shorts: Joshua Redman; Joe Lovano; Chris Botti; Wayne Shorter; Al Jarreau; Miles from India; Kenny Werner Quintet; Jamie Cullum and Madeline Peyroux
Joshua Redman is always a difficult subject to capture. He is all about movement, much like Kenny Garrett. The sound came from all regions of the body. His legs rise and fall as patterns dictate while his head bobbed and weaved and his skin looked as if it was ready to blow. The horn was only half the instrument.
Chris Botti performed in a finely tailored suit. His essence is in the details, which I surmise are predetermined. The music was sumptuous and easily savored with no hard edges or unexpected dissonance. The lens embraced him. Botti moved about like a well choreographed line dancer. The shoulders aligned perfectly with the instrumentthis is poster stuff.
Wayne Shorter and the camera have never been best of friends. This has nothing to do with an aversion to being photographed, but more to do with his quiet nature and manner, in which Shorter brings his music outward. This night, he showed very little body movement, little expression and traveled no distance across the stage. What happened, happened in place. The lighting is always withdrawn during Shorter's affairs.