Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tears for a Texas Tenor

I'm headed off to bed, but I had to pass along some unfortunate news: I just read on a MySpace bulletin that one of Dallas' finest, tenor saxophonist Marchel Ivery, passed away early today. There's nothing about it on the DMN website at the moment, so I'll see if I can find out more in the morning and post an update here.

UPDATE: Here's a post about it from the Dallas Observer blog, Unfair Park. Still nothing at the DMN site yet. I'm pressed for time this morning, but will be back with more later.

LATER: And here's the DMN story, from special contributor Matt Weitz; it was in the GuideLive section of this morning's paper, even though I couldn't find it on that site last night. (It seems like there should be a bit more synergy between those two sites with an item like this, which, IMHO, is news as well as an "entertainment" story.)

Here's a bit of the Unfair Park entry:
Last night, local sax great Shelley Carrol was told he would need to fill in tonight for Marchel Ivery, who was scheduled to play Terilli's on Greenville Avenue for the second time this month. Carrol was told only that Ivery was ill: He'd been checked into Presbyterian Hospital for pneumonia, a rather sudden development. Carrol thought nothing of it: He and Ivery often swapped gigs, almost as often as they performed with each other. Indeed, Carrol and Ivery just finished recording an album together, an homage to the great Texas tenors -- that fat, wide-open sound pioneered by the likes of Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, James Clay and David "Fathead" Newman. Carrol and Ivery were old pals, introduced years ago by pianist Roger Boykin at the Green Parrot, where Ivery was playing with Clay. They were also labelmates on Mark Elliott's late, lamented Leaning House.

Then, early this afternoon, Carrol -- like every other jazz musician around town -- got the phone call: Marchel Ivery, at age 69, died around 5:30 this morning. And just like that, one of Dallas' most beloved and influential musicians -- not to mention one of its most famous, if only outside the city limits -- was gone. "And, man, he was a really great guy -- he was inspiring," Carroll tells Unfair Park today. "He never said a negative word. He'd go around the way to teach you rather than scold you. I loved him. He was a sweetheart. He's gonna be missed. It's a sad day in Dallas."
There's a bit of ugliness in the comment section of that post, where a few people take the Observer to task for its lack of coverage of jazz in its music section (and onetime music editor Robert Wilonsky replies in the tactless way that un-endeared him to many area music fans when he had that job), but read the whole thing anyway, as people like local chanteuse Sandra Kaye and entrepreneur Angus Wynne make appearances in the comments section. Perhaps most telling is the comment from a guy who didn't even know Ivery was a musician; he just knew him as "a nice guy who waved every time I waved when I was in the neighborhood even though he didn’t know me."

I was fortunate to have heard Marchel play on many occasions, at the late and very much lamented Jazz Connection club on Lovers Lane, and of course at his longtime musical home of Terilli's on Lower Greenville. One of the highlights had to be the time that he performed with Joey DeFrancesco at UTD, playing music from a CD that they recorded together on Leaning House a while back. I only wish I'd had a horn (and a little more courage) with me on one of those Sunday nights at Terilli's, where he often allowed people to sit in with him for a tune.

Marchel had been around Dallas so long that it was easy to take him for granted; I'm sorry that I hadn't gone to see him more often in recent years. I'm glad he has a few recordings to his name, and I look forward to the CD that he and Shelley recorded together; it will be people like Shelley, and countless other younger Dallas jazz musicians, that serve as the truest embodiment of Marchel's legacy.

No comments: