David Redfern memorial




Bob Weir attends a gathering of 200 people at Ronnie Scott's in celebration of photographer David Redfern, who died last autumn

David Redfern, the eminent British music photographer with an international reputation, died last October aged 78 after suffering for some while with pancreatic cancer. His family organised a gathering for his friends and colleagues (the terms are virtually synonymous in David's case because to know him invariably led to a lifelong friendship) at Ronnie Scott's on the afternoon of Tuesday 13 January. It was the most appropriate location given that the world famous club's walls are adorned with David's historic jazz photography.

About 200 people attended. Along with family members, former employees, musicians, jazz writers and business associates, there were seemingly most of the UK's music photographers. Many of them had worked at one time or another for the Redfern's photographic agency. Jazz Journal was well represented by the photographers Tim Motion, John Watson and Sylvia McRae, the journalists Barry McRae and myself, and probably others I failed to recognise. Paul Medlicott, a close friend for over 45 years, MC'd the occasion with great charm and wit. David's family and jazz photographs were projected throughout on a large screen at the back of the stage. He looked at his happiest in the company of his young children and grandchildren and with his wife Susie and his longtime friend and business partner Dede.

Music was supplied by various pickup groups (Guy Barker, Ian Shaw and Georgia Mancio (pictured left) were outstanding) interspersed by brief speeches by those closest to David. All were sincere and touching and lightened by humorous anecdotes (David would have hated anything pompous and overly sombre).

David's son Simon (the principal organiser of the event, with generous support from the club and Getty Images, and pictured above beside a photo projection of his dad) spoke movingly of their family life. Tim Motion recalled their mutual adventures at jazz festivals around the world and David's talented protégé Ed Hawkins spoke for the multitude of Redfern photographers with stories of his kindness and inspiration.

There were several reminders of the tributes paid to David by some of his most famous subjects. Buddy Rich described him as "probably the greatest jazz photographer in the world today," adding "but he is too tall!" Frank Sinatra called David to the stage at Carnegie Hall and introduced him as "the greatest music photographer in the world" and Dexter Gordon named him "the Cartier Bresson of jazz".

The last speaker, Matthew Butson (a senior executive with Getty Images UK), skilfully and amusingly summed up the previous tributes to leave an indelible impression of David as an amiable giant of the jazz scene and a photographer of rare talent and sensitivity. Many of us finished the evening around the corner at Kettner's (a favourite Redfern watering hole) to share more precious memories.

Photos by John Watson


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