I once walked into a cocktail party of maybe 300 or so people and there was only one person I saw. He was a gorgeous gentleman with shock of bright white hair. I worked my way through the party left, right, left, right, and went up to him and said, “Excuse me my name is Joe DiMaggio. I think you’re absolutely gorgeous. I’m a photographer and I would love to do a portrait of you.” I had no idea who I was talking to at the time and that this man was a great musician, songwriter and singer. I was astounded by his absolute persona & charisma.
The man I’m talking about was Hugh Brodie and that was the beginning of three decades of friendship with Hugh. Through him, I learned a lot about music, art history & communication. We always had extraordinary deep conversations. There’s no doubt in my mind that Brodie was an absolute visionary. He let little get in his way and for man who did not catch many breaks in his life, he kept a great attitude. Brodie always called me brother, I called him brother and JoAnne was referred to as sister. JoAnne has a fond memory of Brodie leaving one evening from a party we had. She remembers Brodie went out of his way to walk into the kitchen to say goodnight little brother to our son Dylan. That was Brodie for you!
I photographed Brodie over the years and every time it was totally exciting. This was not because I’m such a great photographer but because his personality and soul always came through. I had the pleasure of spending that precious hour with him, on the last day of his life before he packed his bags and went onto the the next level of consciousness. I think back on our conversation about the sound & vibration of music, going onto infinity in the Universe and that every note and lyric lives on. This is how the whole world will remember Hugh.
Your spirit will always be with us. Love you brother Brodie!
About Hugh Brodie– Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Illinois Jacquet were just a few of the musicians that were in Hugh’s dreams as a boy. Little did he know that he would be playing with Jacquet in the 1980’s. Yet, even before he could afford his 3 dollar lessons, Hugh Brodie would fantasize about becoming one of the great jazz musicians.
Hugh’s first exposure to the blues came when he was very young in the fields of North Carolina. He worked on his cousin’s farm and listed to the workers as they sang the blues in the blazing sun tending to the watermelon and sugar cane.
Later, in his early teens, Hugh was amazed by the way the members of the Sanctified Church in Newark N.J. used music in their worship. Hugh was astonished when he witnessed fellow worshipers being overcome by “the great creator” from their toes to their head. These experiences planted the seeds for Brodie’s future music. They created the life experiences and burning hunger that Hugh needed to create music about the spiritual world. Hugh wanted to play music so badly that he begged his father to buy him a sax. Tenor Sax
Times Herald Record – Hugh was a storied jazz veteran. When asked to describe himself, he first says, “I am a creator,” then, “I am a searcher.” He played tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute, sang and scatted. He was cousin to the great Ella Fitzgerald. Hugh devoted his entire life to jazz, developing his own sound, creating his own music and executing his own unique musical visions. He was taught and encouraged by the greats before him and he, in turn, passed on his collected knowledge, to those who played on the bandstand with him or, who sought him out at his home in Monticello, NY. He has many recordings to his credit, played with the famous Illinois Jacquet big band, traveled the world, produced his own music and appeared in movies and modeled throughout his life.
In 2013, Hugh was awarded a “Certificate of Appreciation,” by the Jazz Foundation of America. It said in part, “Your artistry and recordings have reached to the spiritual and emotional core of the true jazz experience.”
Hugh had a strong, infectious spirit. His influence and music will live on and on.
A celebration of his life and music will take place at The Falcon, RT 9W, Marlboro, NY on a future date.
I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I have great friends all over the world from all walks of life! One of my older friends is Hugh Brodie who is a great musician, singer, writer, and plays one helluva Sax. The hell with rock and roll. The women all love him!
Brodie was dealt a bad hand. His last visit to the hospital the Dr. gave him less than 6 months. That was 18 months ago. The last time we visited Brodie he didn’t look good. Much to my surprise, for his Birthday celebration he not only looked great but sounded great. It may not have been Carnegie Hall but it was fabulous to have been there.
What motivates you? What motivates me? In the case of this particular blog, what motivates me is a simple phone call from an old friend. It was a phone call and the timing on it was perfect. Al Stegmeyer called and wanted to know why he had not seen a new blog from me since July or August. There is a very good reason for it. I explained to him why I had not been blogging. To all my ships at sea, I will tell you why in about 60 days. Al was kind enough to invite me to a dinner celebrating his brother being inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. That great musician was Doug Stegmeyer. His mother Peggy Stegmeyer, a world class piano player and music teacher will be celebrating her 90th birthday. For anyone who does not know know who Doug was, he was the bass guitarist for Billy Joel. Nothing would make me happier than to spending an evening with Peggy, Al, and family, in celebration of a good friend and one hell of a musician, but I will unfortunately not be able to attend. So to all the Stegmeyers out there I wish you health, happiness, and a beautiful rainbow. I will be there in spirit.
An Additional Note – A NASA scientists once explained to me that every note in music travels into space and remains there for infinity. So Doug your music is still heard all over the universe
To all the ships at sea, approximately two months ago I did a program at B&H Photography called all things in photography are a compromise. The one thing I would like to make perfectly clear; that is not an excuse for me not to do my best. For that matter, it should not be an excuse for anyone to not do their best. Sometimes your best isn’t really up to code. Attached to this blog is a link to a short film on the great, beautiful, Pete Seeger. It was a work in progress and it was never designed to be published in its present format, but given the fact that Pete has moved to the next level of consciousness, please forgive my one-handed blind shooting. No, I did not intentionally cut his head off but the real sin is the microphone was not tweaked as it should have been. Translated: I had no assistant, no sound man, no PA, and no tripod. However, none of those things are an excuse. https://vimeo.com/85390064
This is extremely difficult for me to write. We have been photographing Richie Haven’s on and off over the years for a long time. We stopped counting the number of concerts a long time ago. Richie on stage was one of the greatest performers of our time. Back stage he was a just a regular guy. The last time he called me he asked permission to use three of my photos in a new book. I will have a follow up blog and a tribute to Richie in a few months. Sing in Peace Brother…
I spoke with a NASA scientist a few years back and we were discussing radio telescopes and he explained to me that a note played or sung will go on for infinity so I know Richie’s music will continue on…
Rodman. I was at a Jazz Club one night and I listened to this man and he could blow a mean, mean horn. I invited him to the studio, and he showed up about a week later. What I was looking for was total simplicity. For lack of a better term call it black on black and then highlights on the cheek and horn with fingers. One light. Two black gobos. One small mirror reflector. Camera was Canon F1, Lens 200mm 1.8, PlusX. 90th of a second at 2.8.
It’s a little known fact that JoAnne and I had an illegitimate son, by the name of Dylan (just joking.) Please understand across the studio just came a comment…”You’re out of your mind what are you saying?.” So let’s just be honest, I am out of my mind, I agree, it’s just the nature of the beast. Dylan at a very young age had a babysitter, by the name of Dennis Wheeler. Dennis’s art is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. In my humble opinion he is one of the finest artists of our time. In those days we lived on the sea and rainbows were relatively commonplace. They usually happened after it rained…I never quite did figure that out. One day Dylan decided to paint rainbows. He painted, I don’t know, somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty different rainbows. I think JoAnne said to him one day, “Why don’t you sit outside on the stoop and maybe you can sell the rainbows to people who pass by.” (You can tell who the mercenary business person is in our small company) That’s why she is the brains and the beauty.
Dylan sat outside with the rainbows as people would come by and pick them up for 2 cents each. The timing on this was approximately ten months after Musician Doug Stegmeyer went on to playing bass on a different plateau. There was a knock on the door and it was Peggy Stegmeyer, who lived down the street. In her hand was one of Dylan’s rainbows. She very softly said, (I am paraphrasing) “Joe, this is the first time a smiled in almost a year.” I’ve been known to say, all the great things in the world are free and occasionally a great piece of art may only sell for 2 cents. But it made some one very happy.
Many of my friends know I have had a love affair with film for the last thirty plus years. Twenty years ago, I walked into a cocktail party with approximately 150 people. Out of the 150 people I could only see one; just one. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I worked my way through the crowd of martinis, and white wine to get to a gentleman who was drinking a cup of coffee; two creams, two sugars. His name is Hugh Brodie. If you don’t know the name you may know the music. His cousin was Ella Fitzgerald. He was brought up in the south with a saxophone in one hand a painter’s brush in the other. Half Cherokee and half African American; he’s got to be cool. Approximately six or seven years ago, my son Dylan did a short film on Brodie which came in first place in the Black Bear Film Festival. It actually opened the Black Bear Film Festival. Subsequently, Dylan and I have been collaborating on a feature film. The working title is “The Life and Times of Hugh Brodie.” Another possible title is “The Black Cowboy.” Many people have complimented me on some of my photographs of Brodie and I try to explain to them that I have very little to do with the particular photograph. Brodie is so magnificent, so beautiful, so honest, straightforward and sincere. It’s F8 and show up. Okay maybe it’s F2.8 and show up. We are now in the process of cutting and scoring the film. The great editor Victor Goretsky will be doing the editing and the scoring will obviously be Hugh Brodie. We’re looking forward to having it wrap somewhere in the fall of 2011 maybe earlier.
Hugh Brodie and the Cosmic Ensemble will be playing at The Falcon on July 2nd.
Dinner Begins at 5 pm, Opening Act 7pm, Headliner 8pm.