Goodbye Eddie Locke

September 7, 2009 :  My dear friend Eddie Locke has left this vale of tears.
His lady Mary Ellen saw to his care in the best possible way. Eddie was at home with hospice care, and on Friday the 5th, Barry Harris, Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes, Tardo Hammer, Bill Easley, Leroy Williams, Neal Miner, Bob Johnson, Murray and Diana Wall and a host of others descended upon Mary Ellen's beautiful home to say our goodbyes.
We said our goodbyes in our own ways, and just about the only thing we all felt missing was Locke's sonorous voice ( there were times you could hear him laughing a block away ) and humor.
Locke was a big, gruff, larger than life sort of man who did everything in a big way. Playing, laughing, teaching, scolding, everything was given the full commitment of his personality, no holds barred. You took Locke the way he came, and were the better for it. I know I am.
We did a lot of work together. I remember doing a cruise with Eddie and Murray and Diana Wall. After dinner one night Locke seemed to have disappeared and Diana turned to me to ask: "Where's Eddie?"  I said: " He's probably off somewhere glad handing perfect strangers."  That is precisely what he was doing. Locke made friends with everyone, and wasn't the least shy about starting conversations with folks he'd never met. I used to call him my own diplomatic corps. Where ever we travelled, Locke would make new friends and draw a crowd of people who loved him. Some of these relationships went on for years and years. Locke never forgot them and they happily returned the favor.
He loved my kids, and they called him "Grampa." Eddie and I did an outdoor concert for the Princeton Jazz Festival one year and I brought along my son Robert who was probably about 14 or 15 at the time. After the concert Robert was helping Eddie pack up and they were having a conversation. Anything Locke did involved conversation especially when there was a young person around. I heard Robert responding in Locke's speach patterns, trying to pick up Eddie's style of speaking. I turned and said: "Great! That's all I need is two Eddie Lockes !" Eddie broke into a big smile, laughed and said: "That's one of the funniest things I've ever heard."  Now I'm damned glad I have the spare.
There is another huge gaping hole in my world. You simply don't fill the space left by a man like Eddie Locke. All you can do is to let the emptiness remind you of all the inspiration and friendship that was there for so long and maybe, just maybe go out and glad hand a perfect stranger to try to keep the magic alive a little longer.
Good bye Grampa, we'll miss you but we sure as hell won't forget you.

More Goodbyes and the ever widening hole in my life

Monday May 17, 2010

Last night I attended the memorial for John Bunch at St. Peter's in Manhattan. I was asked to say something about John, and as usual I walked away wishing I was capable of actually expressing what I'm feeling. So here, for those of you that care, and for myself is a more thoughtful and hopefully better expressed sentiment.

There is a line of lyrics from "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men" by Tom Wolfe and Fran Landesman that says: "All the sad young men - choking on their youth - trying to be brave - running from the truth" that pretty much nails the confusion hidden by bravado that I remember being my 20's and 30's. In the midst of all that angst and posing, I was fortunate enough to meet and work with John Bunch. John was a lifeline, always there to take hold of, always there to trust, always instructive, and always accepting.

Sure, there were times the frustration of dealing with my cloth ears and over fed ego drove John to use the index finger of his right hand to punch out repeatedly the "right" melody note. But some how he never gave up on me. People like that don't happen every day, and now I look back there were many in my life with the patience and friendship John expressed so freely. John just seemed to always be there, and now he's not. I don't know if there are words that truly describe what I'm feeling, I just know I was damned lucky to have lived and worked with men like John.

That's what happens when you don't die

Friday February 12, 2010

At the age of 89, my father looked up from the obituary section of the newspaper and said: "That's what happens when you don't die, everyone around you does." He put the paper down and never read another obituary. The last week has forced me to consider the depth of my old man's revelation.

Jake Hanna, my dear friend, confidant, inspiration and Rock of Gibraltar in so many of the bands I played and toured with passed away in a Los Angeles hospital today. Jake was followed that evening by yet another dear friend, cornetist, and character Tom Saunders who died peacefully in his sleep that same Friday night.

I met and began working with Jake Hanna during the late 1970's with the Concord Allstars. The influence Jake had on me, musically and personally is just too deep to put into words now. He was always the life of the party, and his sense of swing and truth were always there to ground and balance any band or idiotic young cornet player he worked with. I just sort of felt Jake would always be there, swinging and joking and calling things the way he saw them.

It'll be a more confusing world without him.

Tom Saunders and I took to each other immediately. Tom was another of the world's one of a kinds, who always played from his heart, and found humor in just about everything. We cornetists don't get to spend much time together as a general rule, I suppose one of us in any band is enough ego for most people to handle, but on the few occasions Tom and I did get to play together we always had a ball, and there was always something to laugh about, usually our mistakes.

Goodbye my friends. It may be more confusing and certainly less fun in this world without you, but I don't know what I would do without the time we spent together to guide me.