Yesterday the news came through that the great Jemeel Moondoc has left town forever. Everyday on Facebook we see people responding to someone’s life ending on Earth. For me it feels like the eye of Sauron looking for you, and I hope I don’t get seen. That’s a flip as everyone on social media […]
The very first time I met Giuseppi Logan, I didn’t know it was him. He was an older guy looking to get a reed at Sam Ash in Times Square where I worked. I thought I knew all the street musicians in NYC at that time. A name popped into my head though. In an act of mysticism, I asked him if he was Giuseppi Logan. I had never seen a picture of Giuseppi.
In response G said:
“That’s right, I’m Giuseppi Logan. I’m here because I want to end my life playing music.”
As I recall I immediately tried to get him to go to the Vision Festival and find William Parker. This was in 2008 I believe. A few days later I saw WP and Giuseppi was with him, he got G an Eb real book. G kept coming by the store and we started hanging out more. We decided to partner up and try to get some music happening by any means. The next stop for us was Francois Grillot’s kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen where bassist Francois Grillot and I played hundreds of sessions. I told Francois about Giuseppi, and he immediately said to bring him by. We started helping G get his chops back. I gave him an old low C Bass Clarinet.
It was during this time that Giuseppi played with Steve Swell’s Nation of We at Roulette in an incredible alto section with Darius Jones, Saco Yasuma, and the late great Will Connell. G was reluctant to play and at first declined to solo. Steve asked him again and at that moment the orchestra seemed to go through a window into a different universe where time just stopped. Giuseppi played for about 30 seconds, and there was so much life and feeling present. When I asked Darius about that moment years later he described Giuseppi’s sound as a vulnerable mad genius, which really described it so perfectly for me. During this time G was busking at the 34th N Subway Stop. Both Butch Morris and Daniel Carter heard him there. They both stopped and listened but they did not interrupt him. They both conveyed to me that what was impressive was that nobody had ever played like him before or ever since.
Word started spreading that Giuseppi was back and Tom Abbs from ESP called me to see if we could play at the Bowery Poetry Club. The core issue was that Giuseppi was homeless at the time, and had no phone. I talked to Giuseppi about the gig and he said his chops were still too rusty and he needed more time. We spent another few months having sessions and then he said he was ready to go, though definitely not back to full strength. I reached out to Warren Smith to play drums, knowing that we would need his on stage musical help to keep G afloat. We played a 20 minute set in February 2009 on a double bill with Gunter Hampel who played solo vibes and bass clarinet on the first set. I remember after the gig, Giuseppi went and sat on a bench with nowhere to go. Thankfully, he got a ride to a shelter before the curfew. He hated that place because people were looking to steal his horn.
Giuseppi and I got into a thing then. I would get gigs happening and then he would come by the store so we could plan the sessions and get together on what was happening. I tried to get him going with cheap cell phones, but he wouldn’t charge them. Eventually he got a room on the Lower East Side by Tompkins square Park thanks to our beloved Jazz Foundation of America. He was also hanging out with activist Susannah Troy who started posting videos of him on YouTube. There was always this urgency and he would say “I don’t have much time left.” Giuseppi wanted to work and the idea of recording came up. Bernard Stollman at the time said no. Josh Rosenthal from Tompkins Square Records was into it though, and thus came the recording the Giuseppi Logan Quintet in September 2009. We rehearsed as much as we could and Giuseppi had new tunes. All of G’s tunes had chord changes even if it might not sound that way. For the opener Steppin’ he really worked out the changes with Dave Burrell, somehow connected to Giant Steps. When we ran out of material I asked G to play piano and sing his song Love Me Tonight which I had heard him do at Francois place and on gigs. The thundering chords he played are to me, the storm clouds that seemed to haunt him throughout his life.
After the recording we played as much as possible and David Miller took over on drums. I don’t remember all the places but I do remember asking John Zorn for help, and he gave Giuseppi a gig at the Stone right away. We played the Firehouse Space, the Brecht Forum, 5C, the DMG, WKCR, the Local 269 (on YouTube with Warren Smith), NuBlu, Jack, an ESP Festival on Roosevelt island, the Stone 2 more times, the Bowery Poetry club again, and a bunch of others. The most incredible of these gigs was the ARS Nova center in Philadelphia with Dave Burrell on piano. It was packed, and G was on on fire! There were press people in the audience and it was a big event. I remember Dave Miller driving us to Philly. G’s chops were getting stronger and stronger. He started calling and playing Confirmation in his own G way. We just kept playing whenever we could through 2012 when in April the New York Times did a story titled Giuseppi Logan’s second chance that came out on Easter Sunday April 6th. It was during this time that Larry Weinstein filmed Giuseppi in the documentary the Devil’s Horn, though it wasn’t released until 2016. Giuseppi’s son, pianist and producer Jaee Logan came out from California for a deep hang with G (on YouTube). Ed Petterson produced a fund raiser release for Giuseppi that was split into two releases. I helped him connect with G but I was not involved musically. The second one was on the Improvised Beings label. Somehow G got involved with a modeling agency and also a film soundtrack. He played a trio gig with Francois and Dave live on WFMU that was great.
We did a performance at the ESP office in Brooklyn at one point and eventually Bernard Stollman wanted to record the sequel to Giuseppi’s original ESP classic. Bernard booked a studio and we really got to work. Giuseppi wrote all new material that we were rehearsing at Francois kitchen. The music had all odd time signature’s with new melodies, and was like an extension of Satan’s Dance. The kicker was the plan that Jaee Logan was going to fly in and be on the recording. 2 days before the date, Bernard pulled out and we were forced to cancel. I remember having to tell Giuseppi the bad news. We were all broke and could not get into the studio. We lost the momentum and rehearsals started being further apart. The storm clouds continued to gather when Giuseppi hurt his hip really badly and ended up in the hospital. The details of this event are still scattered but the end result was the next thing I knew he was in a nursing/mental home in Far Rockaway Queens. While he was out there, there was more film work down on the documentary The Devil’s Horn.
What none of us knew was that Lawrence Nursing Care would be Giuseppi’s last stop. He found an Angel out there, Dianne Moore. Dianne was really there for him. It was decided that he would stay out there mainly for his own health and safety. He couldn’t leave which really bothered him. I didn’t know what I could do other than keep him connected to music by visiting him as often as I could. Mostly every couple months for several years. During this period I learned that he was married twice and had 11 children and also several grandchildren. He had 2 sisters who visited him at the home once. They were from Virginia, where he was before he came back to NYC. I’d been tight with his Jaee Logan for awhile at this point and we’re still tight. I recently corresponded with one of his granddaughters on Facebook.
But what about his music?! G had his horns, but sessions and gigs were no longer possible. His horns were always having problems and at one point alto sax player Rocco John Iacovone donated him a solid alto. Dianne and I got him keyboards with the help of the Jazz Foundation. Piano was his main thing at this point and he played his alto less and less. That continued right up until recently when my brother Reggie Sylvester snuck in a snare drum so that we could have a trio set with G on keys just a few months back.
Dianne called me last week when 15 patients fell to the Corona virus at Lawrence. Not G though, and we thought that as usual he would find a way to survive. Not this time though, and she called me with the tragic news. I immediately contacted my brother Jaee Logan. Since then I’ve been watching G on YouTube pretty much non-stop.
As I’ve been telling journalists contacting me, Giuseppi did not have a huge body of work. The work that he did do, especially his first quartet record, touched a great many people. Musically, like Ornette, he knew exactly what he was doing. His compositions are a huge part of why his music connects. I feel that Giuseppi’s sound and all that feeling behind it touched people in a way that meant something that is really unexplainable. It will take me years to process, but part of his music seems to have been about the futility and frailty of human existence. His music has gotten me to see that only the human being can make music. We can’t remember where we were before birth, and face inevitable death. We can defy this process but have no control over it. At our core we all seem to be flawed and broken on some level. While we exist we can choose to try and be better human beings. Giuseppi’s music was just like life. Choices. Consequences. The task of looking in the mirror and asking not only who we are, but what. Are we good? Are we bad? Do we deserve life? Do we deserve death? How do we treat others? How do we treat ourselves? Do we Love? Are we Loved? Do we deserve pain? Pain on some level is part of every human experience. People say life is all about how you respond to it. Aries people like me might feel that when we get back home we have to show somebody that we did something important. We are children after all. Giuseppi made choices and faced severe consequences. His music stays with us, the ultimate gift from any musician.
My first mentor Hildred Humphries was also my friend. Hildred was almost 60 years older than me. Bern was 23 years older than me. Roy Campbell was 17 years older than me. Sabir Mateen is 19 years older than me, and we’re still tight. Giuseppi was 34 years older than me. Then there’s my great friend DC, the wonderful Daniel Carter. I just turned 50. What brought us all together?
The love of music, pure, simple, grand and epic all at once.
The love of music is what bonds most of the people in my life together. Giuseppi and I did have a special thing. Ornette introduced me to the idea of humanity in music as a prime directive. Playing with Giuseppi and being his friend was the master class. He helped me figure out the thesis of my own life. Though we never spoke about it, we were bonded somehow by a deeper reality. He said reaching God was the ultimate meaning in playing music. He encouraged me saying “You know you can play right? You can play!” He also loved the blues!
He took the concept of being yourself in jazz to the extreme. Nobody else will ever play music that way again.
We will never hear that sound in person again
When I got the news that he had passed I was going around saying there is sun today. No sun all all. Now I’m going around saying Love Supreme every chance I get. Giuseppi wrote a tune once called Wretched Sunday, and with 508 people dying from Corona in NYC yesterday maybe it is.
The Giuseppi I knew did exactly what he said he wanted to do.
He went out playing as much as he could.
I see you up there in the stars G
I see you
Dedicated to Giuseppi Logan. May he know peace, love, and perfection.
A Love Supreme