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The Joyful Dancer and his Protege

Posted by
Denny Jump (Bellevue, WA, United States) on 21 July 2011 in People & Portrait.

This Image was captured in the spring of 2006 in San Diego. The man on the left is yours truly weighing-in at approximately 25 lbs heavier in 2006 than he is today, thank God!

The man on the right is the subject of today's post.

Please meet Lieutenant, Thomas Brent Burrell (just “Brent” to all who loved him). Brent was born on July 21, 1920 in Moscow, Idaho. He joined the Army Air Corp during WWII and became an officer serving on a B17 aircraft. In early 1944, Brent’s B17 was shot down and he had a piece of shrapnel about 5 inches long (from a 50 Caliber machine gun striking the plane) tear through his knee. He was sent to Los Angeles for recovery and rehabilitation to his knee where, during that long, long period of recovery, he met a young Army Nurse named Marian who eventually became his wife.

In the mid-fifties, our two families wound up living and meeting each other in the same town in Southern Colorado. My two sisters would baby sit their sons and both of our families became very close and remained that way for years…When the Burrells moved to San Rafael, CA in 1957, our family followed shortly thereafter and moved to Roseville, CA, , about 70 miles from San Rafael.

Now, Brent was a huge Jazz fan, having collected hundreds of records, autographs, books and other memorabilia of various Jazz artists through the years. He had even hosted a radio Jazz program when living in Colorado. And despite his leg wounds, he loved to dance as much as he could and he would grab one of my two teenage sisters and start swinging them around the room to the strains of Duke Ellington or Tommy Dorsey!

When I turned about 10, I started to enjoy that sound coming from his records and, I grew to love Jazz and Blues like nothing else – always encouraged by Brent. He taught me all about jazz music and the various artists that he loved. He taught me the “jive” handshakes of the mid and late 40’s and he would pretend to be playing a saxophone or trumpet while I pretended to play the drums as we both listened to music and bounced around the room.

Years later as I finished High School and a bit of college, I wound up having to go to Vietnam. Brent kept in touch while I was there, and we always remained friends following my return. Our mutual love for jazz was the spark, but Brent’s world view, his tireless dedication to equality for all people, his humane spirit, and philosophies had a far greater influence on me than I knew at that time.

Eventually, we moved further apart, physically, but he was always with me in my heart and we would exchange Christmas letters each and every year for the decades until he died. Getting a card and letter from Brent (complete with his little sketches of himself and the constant pipe that he would smoke) was a godsend to me. And we would always “talk” jazz in our letters.

After probably close to 30 years of not seeing Brent, Barbara and I finally met with him at his son Peter’s home, in Santee, California (east of San Diego). It was truly as if we had never been apart. I loved Brent so very much and I still do. This image that you see, is from that reunion!

I was so glad that we had that short time, because a few years later, in January 2009, at age 88, Brent lost his battle with throat cancer and he crossed over to heaven to join his wife Marian and all the jazz greats who were waiting for their biggest fan!

In closing, just a small example of the spirit and joyful attitude that Brent always had….and the love he had for jazz and for dancing: On the night preceding his death, what was he doing? He was teaching the hospice nurse how to dance the jitterbug! True story!!

That was Brent…always joyful always dancing, always in love with Jazz….So I have since that time also referred to Brent as “The Joyful Dancer”

Happy Birthday Brent – we miss you - we love you!

FUJIFILM FinePix E550 1/120 second F/2.8 ISO 400 8 mm

** Staples Singers - "Respect Yourself"

- " We do not move forward from a middle opinion, which is undemocratic but mediocratic.
We advance from a creative passion "- (Edgar Morin)

- "To photograph is to hold one's breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It's at
that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."
- Henri Cartier-Bresson.

::Words from Denny:
- My beliefs, and values, have always been strongly tied-to music, especially Jazz, and Blues.
- The following artists and lyrics seem to "sum-up" where my spirit resides:
; Earth Wind and Fire

1/120 second
ISO 400
8 mm