there I was, with less than a year of
serious photography experience, working with one of the greats. I didnt
ask questions. I just took pictures of Dizzy Gillespie warming up."
Photo by John Zimmerman
Dizzy and a teacup
by John Zimmerman H67
The great jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie performed in the Wabash College
Chapel in the fall of 1990. At the end of sound check I was alone in the
balcony of a quiet Chapel whose stage was filled with silent jazz instruments.
Then music department chair Jim Ure interrupted the silence by asking
if I would like to take a picture of Dizzy warming up in his office. I
loaded my camera and went down to Jims office in the Chapel basement.
Excuse me, I said. They asked me to take some pictures
of you. Would that be OK?
No problem, as long as you dont talk to me!
May I use flash?
No problem, as long as you dont talk to me.
And there I was, with less than a year of serious photography experience,
working with one of the greats. I didnt ask questions. I just took
pictures of Dizzy Gillespie warming up.
At intermission, I worked my way past the student guards to take pictures
in the warm-up room. Dizzy was doodling at the piano. I was photographing
Ed Chery, lead guitar, when I heard a voice behind me say, There
you are with that camera again! Without thinking I said, No
problem, man, I have a whole roll of pictures of you. To which he
replied, Ill pose for you.
In an instant I whipped around and took Dizzy and a Teacup.
Dizzy Gillespie died on January 6, 1993. Soon thereafter a Charlie
Rose late-evening TV conversation panel featured Wynton Marsalis,
Nat Hentoff. and a third person I dont remember. What I do remember
is the perfect correspondence between the Dizzy Gillespie I had photographed
and the person discussed by the panel. He loved children, had an affinity
for Bangladesh, ate vegetarian Chinese food, and doodled on the piano
during intermission. That conversation affirmed my love for Dizzy and
the Teacup: the montage of image and story was honest.
John Zimmerman is professor of chemistry at Wabash and was recently
named an honorary alumnus of the College.
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