Thursday, 12 December 2013

Unfortunately, I Was Right About Stan Tracey

I wish there would be some news in the jazz world other than the greats leaving us one-by-one. My premonition last July was correct in the case of Stan Tracey, as I went out of my way while in Scotland last summer to see him at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, only to be disappointed when he was a no-show at his own gig. I thought it perhaps my last chance to see the legendary house pianist from Ronnie Scott’s, and unfortunately I was right; Stan passed away this week. No more to be heard from the man for whom accompanying the likes of Dexter Gordon and Ben Webster every night for seven years was like "Christmas every day" (shades of Elmo). See his lengthy Guardian obit here.

Jim Hall left us this week as well. Most notable in my book for joining Sonny Rollins’ 1962 re-entry-from-outer-space album The Bridge, Jim played subtle guitar with virtually everybody in jazz, proving that you don’t have to be a million-note-a-minute twiddler to be a great player. If only more would listen and adopt his approach. From his New York Times obit: Mr. Hall never took his mastery of the guitar for granted. “The instrument keeps me humble…Sometimes I pick it up and it seems to say, ‘No, you can’t play today.’ I keep at it anyway, though.”

To think that someone whose mastery of the instrument appeared so effortless was actually still intimidated by it after playing for 73 years. I don't feel so bad now on those days when practice seems like work and I feel like a small child picking up my horn for the first time.

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