Just some thoughts
These, just reflecting on Dr. Jazzs own quotes, as I remember them so well.
Ronnie: Its to the gig, and loving it!
So many gigs together, so many plansto do a recording with our boys back in Boston, him on alto sax for Lover Man. We had planned this for 2018. Then, wed get back to Seattle for the full session.
So many Imagine back in 1974, when I was playing at the Ballard Elks Club with my cousin Roy Smith on organ, when in walked a most interesting fellow (with a watch cap and hair chunk sprouting out the top), who introduced himself in the most wonderful (Ronnie) way, to say he had read my posted advert on the board of a 39th Ave coffee house asking for players to maybe form a Dixieland band. Well, the staid Norwegian audience was shocked to see such a character there! But, Ronnie was an Elk! (As was my Dad, whom Ronnie always loved.) We hit it off, to say the least, and eventually after rehearsal sessions in his (in)famous Vault on 2nd Avenue, we became the Salmon City Seven. Lots of fun after that!
The gig for Ronnie was so much. It was his life, as all know, not to mention his dedication to all the students whom he has mentored and inspired. After so many gigs with all the greats in Seattles storied history and beyond, and with many of us all on the home front (like John Holtes Swingland Express, in the 1970s, and Mickey Martin, his dear friend), he and his great musicianship have been justly recognized in the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame.
As to other gigs, Ronnie became a close friend to many visiting jazz personalities. He would shepherd the likes of Stan Getz, and Freddie Hubbard, to and from the airport and hotel, developing long-lasting friendships. One day, Ronnie asked me if Id like to meet up with that great trumpeter. Really?!, I cried. Yes. We had a great afternoon with Freddie, who was a complete gentleman. Later at the jazz club, we sat in the front row, as Freddie played on student-level trumpet and flugel (his horns has been delayed in shipment), but who could ever tell? On another date, Ronnie and I sat in front of the Charles Mingus band, and Ronnie spoke of an aura he saw around Mingus. It was captivating.
Ronnie: Straight ahead, and strive for tone.
What a player! His rich tone on clarinet, his great alto lead in big bands, his pure flute. His total dedication to sound! Even as a brass player, I know his conceptions of breath, support, and airstream are true and memorable, great parts of his teaching approach. I concentrate on them every time I play. I particularly love his clarinet tone, so woody, so beautiful, so real.
Ronnie: Really?...Well, actually
He had a laser beam focus on truth. He could see through phonies a mile away. He could tell the real from the fake, from the genuine to the gimmitrey (gimmickry) as he would say. His disarming way could lure a phonie into revealing himself, without the latter even knowing what happened. But then, all appeared quite normal.
Talking with Ron was always an adventure. He was really the master of stream-of- consciousness dialog. He would easily go from past (exquisitley remembered!) to present, to future, and back again, seamlessly and without pause. But, youd always get the feeling that he was moving on to some point, only distantly grasped by me at the outset. Then, hed move you down onto that point so gently, quietly. This is a form of discourse that borders on genius, I think.
One other thing occurs to me: his incredible magnetism. I cant recall how many times when in a restaurant, say, that hed engage a waitress. Well, that was it! Shed be totally focused on him, even if he were 60 years her senior. What a guy!
Ronnie: What did one eyeball say to the other?
He had an incredible sense of goofy humor, Vaudevillian in all respects! Are you ready? No, Im Reddies brother, Blackie! And, at the end of a gig, Bye, byeand BUY BONDS! No one else I ever knew loved to laugh so much, and found such humor in life.
Ronnie: We have to thank people in this world!
This is one of the greatest things to me, about Ronnie. His wonderful appreciation for life, and for all the myriad personalities he interacted with. All sorts of people, never any prejudices or preconceptions, a total embrace of humanity. His beautiful tribute to Buddy Catlett, the great bassist, and his dear friend, sums up Rons deep humanity, when he told me how he played My Buddy (Walter Donaldsons 1918 tune) in commemoration of that revered musician.
I think of Ronnie every time I pass an odd poster displayed in the woods as I head home to Cape Cod. With a hand-drawn heart, it says simply, Tell Someone You Love Them.
Ronnie: You are the greatest in the land.
He often said this, and not just to me. He just had the most human soul-depth of anyone Ive ever known. Perhaps inscrutable, maybe difficult, hard to fathom, often misjudgedbut to me, the greatest friend.
Dr. JazzI love you madly. We love you madly. We always will.