Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lights in the Darkness

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, December is a very dark month (the farther norther, the darker.)  It's no coincidence that our distant ancestors created holidays around "lights", events that came down to us as Hannukah, St. Lucia Day, St. Martin's Day, the Thai holiday of Loi Kraothong, Diwali in India and, of course, Christmas.

Perhaps, it's also a coincidence that we feel the loss of people close to us and/or people we respect more strongly this time of year.  The world of creative American music has lost many musicians in 2013 and it seems that this December has been extremely tough.

Perhaps the biggest shock is the passing of bassist Dwayne Burno (pictured above) who died on December 28 from complications of kidney disease.  Burno, a native of Philadelphia, PA, worked with so many musicians, from pianists Harold Mabern and George Colligan to trumpeters Jeremy Pelt, David Weiss, and Wallace Roney to vocalist Abbey Lincoln. - he was so popular because he was such a solid and fluid player.  His bandmates could always count on Burno to create a strong foundation for them to work off of.  Yet, if the listener paid close attention, you could hear how creative the bassist could be playing counterpoint to the soloists, his great sense of melody shining through.

Dwayne Burno leaves behind his wife Wendy and 7-year old Quinn.  There is a way to help his family with expenses - working musicians rarely have access to good health insurance (perhaps the Affordable Care Act will help to change that) - by going to fundly.com/our-friend-wendy-just-lost-her-husband-and-needs-help and making a contribution.

In the past few weeks, we have been notified of the passing of guitarist Jim Hall, saxophonist Herb Geller (pictured left), pianist Stan Tracey, drummer Ricky Lawson, pianist Boyd Lee Dunlop, the celebrated reed master Yusef Lateef and, in late November, drummer/composer Chico Hamilton.  With the exception of Lawson (59 years old), these fine musicians were over 80 years old and most of them were still active (or had been active up to the past year.)  Pianist Dunlop, the brother of drummer Frankie Dunlop (Thelonious Monk), had returned to performing and recording music in 2010 after a 5-decade layoff.  Herb Geller, who played alto saxophone as well as flute, moved to Europe in the early 1960s, settling in West Germany where he had a long and busy career as a musician and educator.  You can find out more by going to www.theguardian.com/music/2013/dec/29/herb-geller.

If you can find the time, check out any of these musicians that you might be unfamiliar with to find out why and how their music brought light to this often dark world of ours.

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