The Nearness of You...

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  As I write this, I am listening to Tony Bennett, who I hold in very high regard as the last of the  G.C.O.G.C.’s.(Genuine Classy Old Guy Crooners) I am thinking about our last afternoon in New York City..

I just love to travel. I like the experience of traveling…the people, the places the food. That’s why the last day is usually a little sad for me.

So on our last afternoon we wound up in Union Square, Alan Shapiro, Sheree and me.

From some distance, I hear a lovely muted trumpet playing “As Time Goes By.” Since this is one of my all-time favourite songs, (right behind AC/DC’s “Back in Black”) I go to investigate.

That’s where I meet Gary.

He is sitting on a milk crate all by himself, playing his trumpet. He’s playing all the standards and he is playing them so well…and no one is paying attention. Once in a while someone power-walks by and drops a dollar in his open case. But they don’t stop.

No one is listening. And he plays on anyway…like he doesn’t care. Like the music is The Thing and anything that gets dropped into his open guitar case is a bonus. I like that a lot.

When Gary starts to play “The Very Thought of You” I am hooked. I stand and listen.

He sees me and smiles as best as a guy with his lips invested in a trumpet can smile.

Sheree and Alan are off somewhere else and it’s just me, an enthusiastic audience of one and Gary with his trumpet sitting on his milk crate.

He takes the trumpet from his lips and sings a few bars. I am transported again. I am thinking of smoky jazz clubs and Billie Holiday and the raspy quality to his voice carries a magic that can break your heart.

“And foolish though it may seem to me…that’s everything,” he sings. He smiles at me. I smile back. I figure we both have been in love with wonderful women and know exactly how it feels.

He raises the trumpet and plays it and I am standing there wondering what it feels like to be a musician, making such perfect sounds. I have the same feeling when I listen to Clapton on his guitar, or hear the late great Eva Cassidy or Bon Scott sing. How does it feel to be the absolute best at something? What is it that makes them great…and how does it feel in the act of that creation? That’s what this picture is all about.

I am very suddenly not thinking about a five hour plane ride or wrestling suitcases through the subway. I simply stand there and receive the blessings pouring from his trumpet. It is a Very Good Moment.

After a while, I start shooting and Gary just plays. I didn’t use any of the images where he was hamming it up. As this image was made, he has hit a perfect high note and the sound is utterly and faultlessly perfect. I suddenly realize it is perfect, because Gary has invested his heart in making the sound.

We chatted for a while about music and blues and how a lovely song can lift your heart. Then I put money in his hat and thanked him for the music.

He smiled, shook my hand, and played some more.

“Here’s looking at you, Gary.”

Thank you very much.