|Wesley "Skip" Norris|
When word spread January 26th via social mediaS that jazz titan, concert promoter Wesley “Skip” Norris was in a fatal car accident a collective sadness hit Detroit’s jazz community, and surely in other cities where jazz is a big part of the city’s cultural fabric. Although Skip epitomized what writer Ralph Ellison dubbed many decades ago a Renaissance man, a man of intellectual hunger, depth, and character Skip’s most recognizable and celebrated trait was his advocacy of jazz. In all the years as a jazz journalist and jazz blogger, I never met an individual more passionate and knowledgeable about jazz than Skip was. Over the years, I would see or hear Skip at many of the jazz concerts around Detroit and Ann Arbor. On many occasions, I wondered about that dapper man in the audience egging on the musicians, shouting out their names at the conclusion of an inspired solo. I became formal jazz friends with Skip after interviewing him about a new concert series he was putting on at the Northwest Activity Center called Jazz at the Center, which in its brief run had world-class jazz acts such as trumpeter Roy Hargrove, drummer/bandleader Ralph Peterson, and the all-star jazz ensemble the Cookers. From that time forward, I made sure I caught every concert Skip had a hand in producing, including the JD Allen, Joe Locke, and Joey Calderazzo hits at the Detroit Groove Society concert series. And whenever, I ran into Skip at a show in town I was always a recipient of one of his bear hugs. I was sincerely awed by Skip’s encyclopedic knowledge of jazz, and more so that he was personal friends with just about every jazz musician of note throughout the country. And he seemed to have a warehouse of stories. At Hartford Memorial Baptist Church Monday Skip’s family, friends, and many from Detroit’s jazz community participated in a home going service befitting a man who lived a truly exemplary and blessed life. Those who got a chance to share their experiences and recollections of Skip characterized him foremost as a man of unyielding faith. Everybody who wanted to speak about Skip wasn't afforded the opportunity. Had they we’d still be in the church listening. It was easy to take from the speakers that Skip was genuinely beloved. Ronald Robinson Lockett, one of Skip's dearest friends, jokingly said that God took Skip from us because God needed someone with Skip’s know how to promote jazz concerts in heaven. There was jazz music during the service at the appropriate moments from bassist Robert Hurst, saxophonist Victor Goines, and drummer/trumpeter Ralph Peterson. During the remarks section of the service, another of Skip’s closest friends Jacques Mullins noted during the service the greatest testament to a man is to see how many people come out for his home going. Hartford Memorial was filled with people who as another speaker pointed out loved them some Skip Norris.