A tribute to someone I will always miss, and the reasons why. Originally written in 2014.
I loved his hats–how he really wore them, as if they were a part of him—an extension of whom he truly was. I loved how he dressed. I loved how well-read he was and how a conversation with him was akin to verbal acrobatics. I loved his appreciation for all music. I loved teasing him through the years about our younger days. I loved the showman he became and the showman he wasn’t all those years ago—how guarded he used to be on stage. I would tell him to stop acting like Jim Morrison in his early gigs–to face the crowd because he had star quality—to show everyone that he was sure of his talent because he definitely had it. I don’t know if I nagged him enough to convince him, or if he finally did it to shut me up. Either way, the world got to experience the best of who he is, which is why I started telling him in the first place. I loved the day he argued with me in Toledo NOT to say, before he played My Funny Valentine, “this goes out to all the ladies in the house” but did it anyway. I remember his mother and I sitting at the table in front of the stage and chuckling at that moment. To this day, I cannot believe he did it, because he was so adamant about not saying it—playing or not.
I loved how he could take a note that you had known your whole life and turn it into one you had never heard before. I loved his energy. I loved going to Kris and Kate’s wedding with him. I loved that he turned me on to the Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderly album—which is one of my all-time favorites. I loved his signature style. I loved his willingness to try new things and that he understood that the love of vinyl was like having musical security blankets—he is the reason I eat Indian cuisine, watch foreign films and will never get rid of my ever-growing vinyl collection. I loved how he would put special touches on a friend’s special day with a style all his own. I loved how he loved his family like I loved mine—a language we both spoke fluently. I loved how he was interested in my writing, in a way others were not at the time, and continued to be. I loved how music flowed through him like electricity—how music was life to his soul–how he was married to music. I loved that he always had a purpose to his walk and when he looked at something or someone, you knew it was seen on all levels.
I loved how he never forgot about me– how complementary he was and always encouraged me to be my own person. I loved the song he dedicated to me and still love it. I loved that he was never too busy to care. I loved that big car he used to drive, that old, worn and lovingly frayed guitar case he used to carry under his arm with the broken handle, and Thursday night jazz jams at Fino’s. I loved that beautiful summer day at the Jazz and Rib Fest and watching Norman Brown play. I love the t-shirt he bought for me that day that I still own. I loved hanging with him at Ike’s house and meeting Stanley the bird.
I loved the day we first met and how we used to laugh about it—how his intensity freaked out my eighteen-year-old country girl self all those years ago, and how I tried on purpose to avoid him the first week after I met him. But with the exchange of a hand-written sign for a gig on purple paper and my convincing myself as I got ready for the evening to calm down, quit being silly and show up because he was being nice, we became dear friends for life. I love how the thought of those early days, still makes me laugh. I loved watching him perform, hearing of his successes, and seeing the metamorphosis of his playing from 1992 on.
I loved that he had close friends that he loved. I loved the pictures he would send to me of various places, CD covers, friends and the random CDs I would get in the mail. I loved that I could be my authentic self and that he never tried to change me—just appreciated that I was a fellow fire sign and creative soul. I love that I can say he knew the words of my heart and I knew his. It is one of the few things that bring me comfort surrounding this sudden loss of my friend.
I loved seeing the pictures of his younger days and being amused at the obligatory cringing that children do when parents break out the albums. I loved his smile. I loved the unspoken, protective nature that he had with the people he loved. I loved how gentle and loving he was with his Mom. I loved his laugh when he was amused by something completely random. I loved telling my son about “my awesome friend in Vegas who plays guitar like nobody’s business.” I loved hoping that they would meet one day, as two Buckeye fans and I looked forward to a trip to see him this year to run around like we did during the old days.
I loved that he had an appreciation for gospel music and could play it as if he had been born playing it. I loved our conversations, loved that our squabbles were always short-lived and that grudges between us didn’t exist. I loved that we could just “be.” I loved the day that he played that chicken alarm clock for all of us sitting in the living room of his apartment….I STILL remember it saying, “Yeah, woo, baby wake up!” I’m not 100% on remembering that he told me that his aunt got it for him, but I don’t think I have heard a better alarm clock since.
I loved when he took me dancing to soukous music at the Dell—how that little space packed everyone in to watch Kanda Bongo Man do his thing and dance until we all spilled out onto the streets all tired from nonstop moving just before the sunrise.
I loved his sense of humor and the fact that he would “dig” something from time to time. I loved the day he taped art paper to the walls of his hallway and we all colored with crayons, listened to old vinyl, and enjoyed wine and the cake he got from Mozart’s for Reggie’s birthday. I didn’t love the day that Liz and I got roped into cleaning that apartment to help him and Kris get their deposit back, but I have come to love the memory of it—now that there isn’t a sponge and bucket in my hands. I loved late night short stacks of pancakes, coffee concoctions and hanging out with someone who could greet the dawn like I could.
I loved how he would calm my panic about random things with just a dose of his blunt way of speaking. I loved to hear that Ohio voice, and how its delivery quickened its pace when he lived in New York and then slowed down again when he moved to Vegas. I loved how he gave me my first rose ever and how it bloomed bigger and brighter than any I had ever seen. It bloomed so noticeably large, that I took a picture of it sitting on my desk in my dorm room, and still have that picture. I loved that he was shocked that I had never received a rose from someone up to that early point in my life.
I loved his quiet strength, his intelligence, and his lack of fear of failure. He always knew that at some point, with his best effort he would succeed. I loved his dedication to the inner-city school kids he taught—helping them enjoy a championship in baseball. He was really proud of that. I loved knowing that beneath that hepcat exterior was a man who loved his sports. I loved his natural patience and ability to teach anyone what he loved.
I loved that he never let up until I sang My Funny Valentine at the jazz jam. I loved that it was the night Cheers ended, so that I would never forget the date. I loved that he knew that Willow Weep for Me was one of my favorites (from the Billie Holiday cassette I would play in the instrument room late at night when I worked) and photocopied the sheet music for me (which I still have) and of course, My Funny Valentine–a song that he played that has had such special meaning since those early days.
I loved that he remembered things about me that even I would forget from time to time. I loved that he always treated me like a lady, and told me in one of our last conversations that he admired me and the work I do as a mother, and was impressed by the young man my not so little man had become. I loved that he asked me if my cub was a poet like me. I loved hearing that he was excited about his drum set, and knew in my heart that it was going to be yet another thing he would master. He was the kind of person who could fix his thoughts on anything and achieve it. His single-minded determination was and still is an inspiration to me.
I loved the days of OSU, jazz and all of the Ohio friends who decorated that scene, oh and Bernie’s ridiculously low and bumper-stickered ceilings that were a challenge for the 6 foot and taller set like we were and the days of gigging for little money but for just the love of the art. I love the memories of our School of Music madness. And of course I always loved his random shout-outs for the Buckeyes.
I loved meeting his Mom and his Dad. And never forgot how wonderful they were to me. I loved that he loved them with all of his heart. And though I never met his sister in person, and the rest of his beautiful family, I knew that he loved them very much..
To his parents, I want to say thank you so much for giving life to someone who has colored my world in such beautiful ways. Thank you for raising him to be such an amazing man. Thank you so much for my friend.
To his sister, I want to say that your bond is unbreakable—even in his way of being private and guarded about the ones he loved, in random conversations we had over the years I knew he loved you very much. And he was happy when he became an uncle.
I have a lifetime of memories to keep–besides the ones I chose to share—all because Jeff graced the Earth with his presence.
His life was shorter than any of us ever wanted it to be, but it was enough time for him to sign his name on our hearts– for us to look into the infinite blue and cloud-dotted skies and whisper, thank you, thank you and thank you again.
I loved him then and love him still.
To his amazing family, I thank you from the depths of my heart, and thank you all, I always will.
Love, blessings and my deepest gratitude,