Friday, January 8, 2010

JAZZIN' AROUND

Jazz vocalist Nancy WilsonLutcher, I always look forward to talking to you at the Detroit International Jazz Festival. Over the years, we've had some lively discussions about Detroit jazz. We've always been on the same page concerning our musical taste and the Detroit jazz musicians we respect. We believed Nancy Wilson is the classiest jazz vocalist of all times.Four months have passed since the 2009 jazz fest. I've been trying to locate you. I didn't see you at the festival. That's unusual and was a cause for alarm. I asked some of your friends about your whereabouts.

I wondered if you were ill. Neither knew why you were absent. I asked Marcus Belgrave if you were sick. The trumpeter, who introduced us at the 2004 festival, didn't know. Man, I missed you. I'm writing this because I have been thinking about you lately. Monday, I was in my basement looking for biographer Barry Miles' book about poet and novelist Charles Bukowski. I've been on a Bukowski kick lately.

Off and on for a months, I've been reading Bukowski's collection of short stories "Hot Water Music" and "The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship", a collection of essays. I forgot I had stuffed three aticles you'd given me Inside the Bukowski biography. You wrote the articles in late 90's. You profiled pianists Harold McKinney and Barry Harris. When we first met, I told you I wanted to read your work. I asked about your background. You shared bits and pieces of it.

You attended Wayne State University. Journalism was your major. You didn't say if you graduated. For years, you wrote a column called "Jazzin' Around Detroit". That was a hip name. I want to use it for the title of my first book. The late jazz vocalist Nellie Lutcher was your cousin. When we met, you're 65-year-old. You had some health problems. You didn't go into specifics. To correct the problems required surgery. To attend the jazz festival, you postponed the surgery. At first, I didn't believe you. Then I realized you're serious, and I thought you were nuts.

I told my mentor, who is a big jazz fan what you did. He understood why. He commented you're a real jazz man, and there are others jazz diehards of your generation who are equally extreme. Lutcher, I love jazz, too. If I needed surgery, I wouldn't put it off to attend a jazz concert. However, I respected your dedication. Lutcher, do you remember our first meeting? I do like it happened hours ago.

It was the year the great Nancy Wilson headlined the Detroit jazz Festival. We met backstage. You had on a jacket and necktie. Your press credentials were attached to the left lapel, and a camera dangled from your neck. When I saw you, I wondered why you wore a suit to an outdoor festival. You definitely stood out. I asked Belgrave about you. He said you were an important jazz journalist. For decades, you covered the Detroit jazz scene.

After we broke the ice, I asked if you had any clips of your articles. I wanted to read them. You had three clips on you. You gave them to me. The clips were worn with notes and telephone numbers scribbled on the back. We had something in common. We have our clips on hand. Weeks later, I read the articles. I like them immensely. Your style was non-judgmental. The jazz musicians that you wrote about seemed to trust you implicitly. We exchanged telephone numbers. Occasionally, I'd call to make sure you're okay and still writing regularly. Months after we met, I wrote an article about pianist Horace Silver. You expressed how much you enjoyed it. The compliment boosted my spirits. .

I'm worried about you. I wondered if you had died. losing you would be a devastating blow to the Detroit jazz community. There're only a few jazz journalists covering the Detroit scene. In my book, you're irreplaceable. Maybe it was a fluke you miss the festival. Maybe you had an ailing family member to care for. Maybe you just needed a break. Maybe you hit the lottery. And you purchase a small island. I can imagine you lounging on a beach, sipping an exotic drink listening to Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Barry Harris, and Harold McKinney on your iPod. Five decades writing about jazz, you deserve a break. Lutcher, I'm going to stay optimistic that you're still jazzin' around Detroit.
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