Russ Escritt, jazz photographer and fan, RIP

It is with a very heavy heart that I report the death of Russ Escritt. I understand that the disease from which he had been suffering for a long time progressed rapidly in the last week and Russ passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning.

For me, and for many other jazz lovers in and around Birmingham, Russ was a defining presence at gigs and concerts around the region. No matter what the style, whether the names were famous or obscure, the venue a plush concert hall or a cramped upstairs pub room, if Russ was there, in his black leather jacket with his camera bag slung over his shoulder, then the quality of the music was assured and the gig was likely to be a good one.

So, over recent months, as Russ battled a long and cruel illness, his absence has been keenly felt. And the thought that we won’t see him again is difficult to bear.

I was especially grateful to Russ, not only for his superb photographs which he donated generously for use on this site, but also for his invaluable comments on my posts, especially when the content was a little provocative.

When I had been tempted to stir up some hot-headed debate (and I’m not talking just of my readers’ opinions here), I could always rely on Russ to bring calm and gentle reason to the comments area. And heart, too. He was a relentless champion of the music and a real, true fan: remarkably well-read and “well-listened”, hard-working in his support of this art form with his photographs, with his blogging, and his attendance at gigs. And I don’t think I heard him utter a negative word ever; he always had positive and supportive things to say.

Russ’s jazz side was to a great extent his hobby, but I suspect it was a hugely fulfilling hobby for him. He leaves behind him a great body of jazz work – over 4,000 photographs on his website alone, and an invaluable photographic archive of live jazz in Birmingham and surroundings over the last 20 years.

Our thoughts are now with Russ’s wife, Jenny.

I expect to hear in due course about the funeral arrangements, and will pass them on, if appropriate.



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8 replies

  1. I echo everything that Peter has said about Russ. His presence taking photographs was always a feature of running a gig in Birmingham. He would arrive at about 5pm, usually and very helpfully up to date on the football, cricket or rugby scores if it was a Saturday gig, and set up to take photographs at the sound check, always unobtrusively, respecting the musicians’ space and need to get on with preparing for the concert. And they are great photographs that will remind us of Russ for many years.

    Russ was a great supporter of jazz, very knowledgeable about both the history and current trends, and extremely perceptive about particular musicians and bands. It was always good to catch up with Russ and talk through gigs he had been to in Birmingham and elsewhere. I will miss those conversations.

    Russ has played an important role in documenting the scene in Birmingham, helping, for example, significantly with the late discovery of Andy Hamilton and his music. He was always willing to share his photos and they have appeared on many leaflets and press releases for events taking place in Birmingham and other cities as well as accompanying reviews in newspapers and blog sites.

    Our thoughts are with Jenny, his wife.

  2. Very sad news indeed – Russ took a really nice photo of me earlier in my career, which I used for a good while, including on an album cover. My condolences to
    His family.

  3. .. and another side to Russ, he was a dedicated union activist who worked alongside my father … he must have affected a great many peoples’ lives …

  4. Fellow jazz photographer Garry Corbett has paid a heartfelt tribute to Russ on his fickr site and also posted a lovely pic of Russ. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluejazzbuddha/8183202178/in/photostream

  5. I first met Russ in the late ’90s at Andy Hamilton’s “Jazz At The Bear” and our paths have crossed ever since. Russ has produced a wonderful body of iconic images; one particular one that instantly springs to mind is a black and white photo of Andy’s pianist, Sam Brown.

    It is tragic that both Russ and Andy should leave this world in the same year, but for us at the Bearwood Corks Jazz night they will both still be around as Russ’s photo of Andy looks down on us from the left of the stage.

  6. Russ was extremely supportive of my music endeavours. He regularly attended performances, bought my albums, and, of course, took many photos (which he was always happy to pass on for promotional use). I found him to be generous with his enthusiasm about the different projects he came along to witness, and he remains the only person to have attended all three premieres of my Beat Series works (Howl, On The Road, and Bomb – Naked Lunch still awaits its premiere).

    I know that I am only one of many musicians who he gave his time, work, and support to. His presence at a gig was always a welcome one, and will be greatly missed on the Birmingham scene.

    He was a jazz enthusiast in the truest, most progressive sense – and a great guy, too.

    – Steve Tromans

  7. Heartfelt sadness due to the loss of such a dedicated and loveable chap. It can never be over looked, the immense contribution Russ has given to the Birmingham jazz scene and the part he played using his camera to silently visualise the many emotions and good times. He will be missed as he was loved by all of us and my father always spoke kindly of him. A picture can be worth more than a thousand words! In a way, you will live on always through your Art. Peace…

    Graeme Hamilton

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