George Is Playin’… Just Around the Corner

I’m late with this, and so you probably know by now that George has moved on and is becoming.  And this is a description that is more than just poetic.

Briefly, our word “death” implies the end of a line that is a segment, with a beginning on the left and stretching to the right, and ending. Our religious notions teach that it’s more than this. But I think there’s too much finality implied. George came here from the angel realm and sphere and played and walked and loved with all his angel’s heart while he was with us, and now he’s returned to the angels’ realm and sphere where if he never plays another audible note out there, we must still conclude that what he played and did not only echoes in eternity because no sound is lost, but because he directly touched other hearts and spiritual beings in a way that their eternal echoes have been made more beautiful.

I fell in love with San Francisco for many reasons but one of the most important was that there was a music coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area, less than 65 square miles, that was magical and mystical and spiritual and changing the world in which we all lived… Music! So, I put the degree in rehabilitation under my arm, grabbed my first wife’s hand, and made the journey to the Bay Area with Les Czimber, Hungarian gypsy piano player, colleague of Django Reinhardt. With him, I learned how to be a pretty solid ‘stand-there-with-a-trio’ Jazz singer. In fact, there’s a record from almost 2 years before that called “The Masquerade Is Over” — Satin Doll, Sophisticated Lady, Sleepin’ Bee, Masquerade — made while I was at University of Iowa, not with Les, but as his protégé.

So one sunny San Francisco Sunday afternoon, I walked into The Half Note Club on Divisadero Blvd. and the joint was on fire and jumpin’ at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. “The George Duke Trio” was in the middle of their regular afternoon jam session, Bring Yo Stuff and Sit In. Warren and Norma, the club owners, asked me to work the next weekend, Friday and Saturday nights. You can hear a fun chat about that club and that time, as well as some music, on a CD of live music called “Al Jarreau and The George Duke Trio Live at The Half Note 1965.”

I mention this because this is probably the earliest jazz trio playing that George did, and I was there with him, with John Heard on bass, Al Cecchi on drums, and Pete Magadini also on drums. Susan says, “Wow, Alwin—You’ve know George longer than you’ve known me.”

There’s a really beautiful bio that you can find here to read more about George. It’s quite correct to say that I’m a graduate of “Duke University,” where I especially picked up some things about swing. He also taught kindness and friendship and love, courage, tenacity, and gratitude.

That house on the hill on Outpost, reigned over by George and Corrine together, with their loyal knight Erik, was host to a countless number of musicians and singers who crafted their messages for posterity inside those walls. Me, too.

The band and I promised ourselves and God’s tomorrow that we would keep doin’ it the way George would want us to do it.

I will miss my friend until the next count-off of time and downbeat.

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