Thursday, May 08, 2008

RIP: Jack Gilfoy (1939-2008)

Indy lost another jazz great last weekend: drummer Jack Gilfoy died unexpectedly in his sleep Saturday night. His CV is impressive; he played with Elvis, Henry Mancini, Doc Severinson, Johnny Mathis, and Sonny and Cher, among others. Until I read his obituary, I didn't know about any of these but Mancini. But he was an impressive drummer and a nice guy, and always good to work with. The music scene in Indy is slightly less cool without Jack in it.

He performed at the Artsgarden a lot; he was here twice in April. He tended to travel with a small kit, usually something like kick-tom-hat-snare-ride, and he played it well. He never needed a drum carpet; "I never hit anything hard enough that it'll move."And he was a whole seething pile of little quirks. For one thing, he preferred the term drummist, rather than the standard drummer. And he was deeply offended if I called his bass drum a kick drum. "I'm not kicking anything," he'd tell me every single time I called it a kick drum. He thought kicking was a violent metaphor and didn't apply to people who played drums with finesse and style. He had funny stories, and lots of them, from years of performing with just about everyone, just about everywhere, and he was always happy to share them. I'll miss him, a little. We weren't friends, but pleasant acquaintances, and we saw each other a lot. I'll miss seeing him around, and I'll miss his extremely laid-back style.

He's the latest in a long chain of deceased jazz musicians I've worked with. In the last few years, Indy's lost Russell Taylor (drums); Pookie Johnson (sax); Russell Webster (sax); and Aletra and Virtue Hampton (bass, piano, and vocals), just off the top of my head, and there are more I'm forgetting. They were all good people and good performers, and I'm glad I got to work with them and get to know them a bit.

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