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