September 22, 2013
Historic photos taken by Ton Verhees before and during the last concert of Franco et le T.P.O.K. Jazz at the Melkweg in Amsterdam, - just 20 days before his death in Namur, Belgium.
We had already seen the dramatically slimmed-down Franco at the same location, the Melkweg in Amsterdam, in January. But as he walked through the main entrance of the same theatre surrounded by his musicians just over 9 months later, he looked but a shadow of his former self. The musicians were clearly worried. Dizzy Mandjeku shook his head and told me "Ça ne va pas". They had tried to persuade him not come, to stay in Brussels, but he had been adamant. He had made a promise and he was going to keep it.
Encouraged by the pleasant and open interview during his last visit I had prepared a long list of questions. But seeing the man it was clear not only that Franco was too busy with his present condition and with what he had set himself to do, but also that I would not have the emotional nerve to bother an obviously very sick man with issues from the past.
The concert itself remains a painful memory for all those who were present. Some of those were perhaps not aware of the severity of the occasion. Many, including myself, still feel the intense sadness of seeing this tout-puissant musical giant so powerless, so fragile, struggling and frustrated.
Fortunately a Malian journalist and friend, Bouné Zouboye, did have the courage to talk to Franco, after the concert. The short interview fully captures the emotion of the moment, not only of Franco's own desperation, but also of the feelings of compassion and profound sympathy felt by the public on that historic evening, 24 years ago...