Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 08:17:54 -0400
From: Bryan Edgett <>
Subject: [TPIN] Leon Merian: teacher, mentor, friend

Dear all,

I tried yesterday to write my tribute to Leon but lost it and couldn't finish. I hardly know what to say.

I met Leon here on TPIN several years ago. On the recommendation of a listmate, I had ordered his biography, The Man behind the Horn, expertly written by Bill Bridges. I found it to be a fascinating read, so much so that I read it straight through...not even a bathroom break. I had to meet Leon in person.

Previously, I had decided that I wanted to study with people whose training and background was completely different from mine. Leon seemed like a perfect candidate. I called Leon and arranged to fly to Bradenton to visit. I arranged the visit so that on the following day I could hear him with his band on his first performance in almost 2 years. He had serious eye surgery and had decided, at the age of 78 and after taking a year off, to spend the next year getting back in shape to be able to play as he had previously.

In the intervening years, I saw Leon several times, once to interview him for ITG. That article appeared in the June 2004 issue of the ITG Journal.

Leon was a fabulous teacher; his trademark intensity was on display from the moment the lesson began. I was especially struck by the quickness and acuteness of his diagnostic skill.

I saw him most recently in March when I went for a check-up and to play a gig with his band. I loved my visits with Leon. While he was a relentless teacher, he treated me like a son. I'd always take him out to dinner after our lessons and listen to story after story about how life was during the depression and the big band era. After each visit, he'd tell me "Man, I really wish you lived closer."

Leon would call me on the phone at virtually any time of day. Sometimes, he'd call just to see how I was doing. He'd make me play something over the phone and then tell me to do this or that to make what i was doing better. He'd call to tell me about a new horn he got, or a gig he just did. He called to tell me about selling out "Bongos" in consecutive sessions.

Leon's passing hits me especially hard having just lost my mother a month earlier. This death thing sucks. Still, I will remember Leon as a teriific teacher, a magnificent player, and a warm and caring friend.

Rest well, my friend. I'll see you on the other side when I've played my final chorus.

Sadly but hopefully,

Bryan Edgett