I had a photo shoot the other day for Jazz at Lincoln Center. Because the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is sponsored by Brooks Brothers, that is what we are going to wear. Period. Which is fine, because although the clothes are generally pretty conservative, they still look and feel damn good.
The purpose of this photo shoot was different from the past ones, which usually involved somewhat formal poses of the entire band, and maybe a few quick ones using various combinations of cats, and maybe a few rushed individual shots.
This shoot focussed on a few individuals who would be featured throughout the coming JLCO season, and I suppose because I have been commissioned to write a long-form piece that will be premiered next January (working title - “The Presidential Suite”) they will need some photos for their press releases, etc.
I do have to admit that all the attention is nice - you got two people dressing you, someone doing your makeup, people constantly looking at you and giving you the thumbs up, two photographers smiling and telling you you look great (whether you do or not). And you buy all of this for a moment, and it feels like you are a pop star. And then it comes, that moment that puts it all in perspective, makes the whole fantasy come crashing down: they ask you to wear a hat.
Now, I don’t think I have every worn a hat in my entire life. I tried to explain this, that if I took a picture with a hat on it might look slick, but it wouldn’t be me. “Yeah, you sure? How about this one.” It was one of those sort of tweedy British newsboy caps. Look in mirror. Actually, not bad. Maybe I should have been wearing hats all these years. Now that I think about it, the cover of my first record on Concord Jazz (I was 19) had me in a hat. I left that one on the subway in 1980. End of hat career.
A few weeks ago Frank Kimbrough and I were sitting at the bar at the Jazz Standard, listening to a band of young musicians. They sounded great, but looked a little self-conscious: three of them had hats on. I don’t know. It just felt wrong. I was thinking about some established players like Joe Lovano and Kenny Garrett who can pull it off. I turned to Frank, and said “what’s up with the hats?” Frank replied "You have to earn the hat.”