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.