-Al Jarreau, Blue Rondo a la Turk (Dave Brubeck)
Al Jarreau, jazz vocalist - (March 12, 1940 - February 12, 2017)
I was saddened to hear of the surprising, yet not completely unexpected passing of iconic jazz singer Al Jarreau. He died this past Sunday in Los Angeles at the age of 76, his death coming just days after he announced his retirement from touring due to failing health.
It was almost as if he knew.
I've never pretended to have an extensive knowledge of music or music history, but I have listend to a lot of different types of music from a lot of different artists over the years, especially during my time managing a record store back in the 1980s, also as a college radio station DJ back before that.
And I have never heard another performer that used his or her voice and body as an instrument quite the wonderful way Al Jarreau did, including the time-honored jazz tradition of scat singing (at least not until Bobby McFerrin came along).
His immense talent coupled with his unconventional style of performing gave him a popularity and uniqueness few other entertainers ever get to experience.
He will be missed.
the miami show
Any mention of Jarreau's name, even before the sad news of this past weekend, instantly transports me back to the spring of 1994, and reminds me of how great my "job" can be sometimes.
It was back then that Ocean Drive Magazine hired me to shoot some concert photos of a Jarreau performance at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami in May of that year.
Now, as a photographer, concerts and events are far from my specialty, but when a big glossy and trendy South Beach magazine offers to give you a free front row ticket to an Al Jarreau show, says they're going to publish your photos from it, and pay you as well, did you really think there was any chance I would say no?
Of course you didn't.
what, no story?
I know. I know. I'm almost embarrased to admit that, unlike many of my photos, I really have no cool story to go along with these shots.
The whole thing was a bit of a whirlwind. Yes, I did get to meet Jarreau very briefly at some point off stage before the show (sorry no pictures), but after that it was all business. And, of course, a deadline with the publication - a necessary evil that often puts a damper on the enjoyment of an event itself.
And while having to concentrate on the photography part (no small task) often makes it somewhat challenging to really enjoy a performance, in this case I made sure I took the time to watch and listen to Jarreau. At least in between shooting. And I'm glad I did.
the magazine hits the streets
Freelancing for magazines, I learned very quickly - you never quite know exactly when your work will run, if it will even run, which of your photos a publication will choose to run, or how they are going to use your photos if they do run. Those are choices other people make, and you find out exactly what those choices were when the magazine gets published.
When you're a freelancer, first you make sure you get the shot, then you make sure you meet your deadline, then you make sure you get paid. You can worry about all that other stuff, if you choose, later.
Some weeks after the show, the June issue of Ocean Drive Magazine was finally released. The article on Jarreau was basically what we call a Q&A (question and answer), with some backstory on his career, nicely written by talented music writer and friend, Carol U. Ozemhoya (by the way, I am pleased to say that, after all these years, I am still friends with Carol through the miracle of social media!)
Upon seeing my work, I had mixed feelings about the piece.
On the one hand, I was very surprised (and pleased) that they decided to run a full-page photo for a one-page article. You can see above how they could have easily used a much smaller photo and squeezed it onto the same page as the text. Obviously the layout they decided to use has much more impact, and is a more impressive way to show my work.
No complaints there.
But, I really wished that my photo would have run in color. I mean, I gave them color images, and the shot they choose really packed some punch in color. Not all color photos automatically convert perfectly to black and white, and I thought this one lost a little something in the process.
Still, there was some more good news. A second, smaller color pic did run in the issue's TOC (table of contents), which was real nice to see. It's a fun shot as well. You can see a slice of the page from the magazine that I used for this blog post banner above.
All things considered, I'd have to say it was only the greedy part of me that wanted more from what was already a nice showcase for my photos in the magazine. When I think about the opportunity I was given, and the privilege of witnessing this great performer up close and in his prime, looking back I have no complaints whatsoever. It was quite a moment.
Rest in peace, Al Jarreau...
About Black History Month
Call this my Middle-aged Suburban White Guy Disclaimer. I have never and will never catagorize my work based on the skin color of my subjects. That would just be dumb.
I also believe black history is American history, and should be celebrated the year round, not just one month a year.
What I do enjoy is keeping within the spirit of Black History Month, having the opportunity to share personal stories of some amazing individuals who happen to have an ethnic and cultural element to their lives that is a significant and crucial part of their place in history. Our history.
All of my Throw Back Thursday posts this month will showcase famous African-Americans I've had the pleasure of meeting and photographing.
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As always, your comments and suggestions are more than welcome!
All photos ©Steven Paul Hlavac. All rights reserved.