I never had a brother by blood and missed out on all of those brotherly things that happen in families. Thanks to jazz, I developed brother-like friendships with a couple of people over the past 20 years. And now, one of them is gone - way, way, way too soon.
The jazz world lost one of its great accompanists and yesterday I lost a friend who was indeed like a brother. Pianist George Mesterhazy died in his sleep yesterday - four days after his 59th birthday - at home in Cape May, New Jersey.
He was a revered player on the South Jersey jazz scene, who also toured the world as accompanist to Shirley Horn in her later years, Rebecca Parris, Paula West and Mark Murphy, among many others. He worked as pianist and musical director for both West and Murphy right up to his passing, accompanying Murphy to London, Paris, Berlin and Istanbul a couple of months ago. And now he's jamming - no doubt leading the festivities and cracking most of the jokes - in a heavenly jazz club.
His talent was over the top as a player and arranger. But his genuine warmth and essence as a human being was more amazing. George had a zest for life and an ability to connect with people that seems beyond compare. His many friends have been filling his Facebook page with their memories over the past 15 hours or so. Such an impact on so many people.
I cherish the memories, the phone calls, the trips, and his dash to Rhode Island 50 weeks ago to play a few tunes when Kathie and I married on a beautiful day in a Japanese garden. George celebrated with us for a few hours and then headed right back to New Jersey the same night. He was always busy but always made time for the important stuff - his friends.
This image by San Francisco photographer Pat Johnson truly captured George's spirit.
My heart aches for his longtime companion/girlfriend, Victoria Watson, his dad, his kids, his extended family.
The only other words right now are those with which George ended every one of our phone calls.
"Love ya, brother."