Death in Music; Two Very Different Levels …

If a person passes away, a famous person such as an actor or musician – their death is considered a tragedy. A loss which sends ripples across the global seas at breath – taking speeds through the countless media outlets positioned to do – just that.

Everyday, thousands perish by way of disease, accidents,criminal behavior, war or plain old age. Everyday people whose lives may have been important to their immediate families, give a final ( and often painful), farewell to the few saddened people who knew them well. The media take no notice and justifiably so. A full page story is not physically possible for every death or else – news of corrupt politicians or cheating sports stars would remain hidden. Society would not stand for that. Sex, scandal and ultra-ordinary events sell. Well meaning souls crossing the great, infinite divide into worlds unknown – do not. Such is the society we have built. Such is the society in which we dwell…

Recently, a musician by the name of J.J. Cale passed away at the age of 74. Recently, an educator and trumpeter by the name of Laurie Frink passed away at the age of 61. Two people important in simular ways. Two people – different in simular ways …

J.J Cale

True music lovers know the name Cale. Passing music listeners may know the name Cale. Millions do not …

JJCale was one of those guys. A more behind -the -scenes guy who did not seek or obtain the high profile life lived by the likes of  Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Ironic because if it were not for Cale – arguably, an entire generation of music fans may not know of Clapton and his earlier work. Cale was responsible for Clapton’s biggest and highest selling hit; Cocaine. A song which placed Clapton immediately into the living rooms of millions globally. A tune which opened the ears to millions of people into not only Clapton’s back catalogue – Eric’s immense guitar – playing talent. The song; After Midnight – another Cale gem made popular through Clapton. A friendship and mutual admiration held in high esteem by both men until Cale’s untimely passing.

Cale was a masterful guitar player and songwriter.

Clapton aware – along with many artists who covered his songs, that in Cale – a storyteller existed. A spinner of tales blessed with the ability to provide an easy going listening experience through his guitar playing and laid back vocals. One listen to ‘Clapton; Live at Budokan‘ and it easy to tell – Clapton adored and emulated Cale to the highest degree.

After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out
After midnight, we’re gonna chug-a-lug and shout
We’re gonna cause talk and suspicion
Give an exhibition
Find out what it is all about
After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out
After midnight, gonna shake your tambourine
After midnight, it’s gonna be peaches and cream
We’re gonna cause talk and suspicion
Give an exhibition
Find out what it is all about
After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out
After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out

Jon Weldon Cale was born on December 5, 1938, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He passed away on July 26, 2013.

Cale’s syle included a blend of many styles. Jazz, Blues and Folk remain at the forefront yet it was Cale’s ability to place his own unique stamp on these genres which set him apart from most songwriters. Every once in a while – someone like Cale arrives and silently influences an entire world. A messiah of music whose students implement his sounds into their music both consciencely and unconscienciously. The latter – one of the highest forms of flattery for any type of artist.


Cale’s only Top Forty hit recorded by himself; Crazy Mama – a true glimpse into the man’s pyche and a taste of what would come and what existed beforehand. Cale’s perhaps one shot at becoming famous and on the path to ‘Rock Stardom’ derailed by the man himself for refusing to Lip Synch the tune on American Bandstand. A man’s refusal to be bought and to sustain his moral integrity. Sometimes the poets of the world must be virtually unnoticed to be noticed. Sometimes – performers like Cale, need to be who they are and somehow, the are the only ones who know it.

Rest in peace John Weldon Cale. The world is a far better place for not knowing you very well …


Laurie Frink

New England Conservatory is mourning the death of faculty member Laurie Frink, a renowned trumpeter and educator.  Frink died at her home in Manhattan on July 13 at age 61.

“One of the leading brass pedagogues of our time, Laurie Frink will be sorely missed, as a teacher, as a player and as a friend,” said Ken Schaphorst, Chair of NEC’s Jazz Studies Department. “I noticed immediate improvement in the playing of every NEC student who worked with her. She was also one of the most accurate and musical lead trumpet players I’ve ever heard.”


 Laurie Frink, born on August 8, 1951 in Pender, Nebraska, played trumpet with Benny Goodman, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Lewis, Bob Mintzer, John Hollenbeck, Dave Liebman, Andrew Hill, Kenny Wheeler, Maria Schneider, Darcy James Argue, John Hollenbeck and Ryan Truesdell.

Her diverse career included several Broadway shows, radio and television jingles, movie soundtracks, and guest appearances with artists such as the Talking Heads, David Bowie, and David Sanborn. Her versatility as an artist led to performances with the Manhattan Brass Quintet, the Saturday Brass Quintet, the Gramercy Park Brass, and Concordia.

frink_laurieWith fellow NEC faculty member John McNeil, Frink coauthored Flexus: Trumpet Calisthenics for the Modern Improviser, which the New York Times called “an essential resource for many trumpeters since its publication a decade ago. The book’s exercises and études came from Ms. Frink’s reservoir of strategies for addressing physical issues on the horn, especially where a player’s embouchure, or formation of lips and facial muscles, was concerned.” She was well known for her insightful ability to solve physical difficulties experienced by many brass players.

“Laurie was known by many as an extraordinary teacher,” said McNeil, “She was one of the best trumpet players in New York, a great sight-reader, a knowledgeable and consistent lead player and an extremely popular human being. You get to be popular, of course, when you save peoples’ careers over and over, as she did mine (twice).”

McNeil notes that some “90% of the outstanding jazz and studio players in New York were her students at one time or another, and many great players world-wide as well.” Her students at NEC included trumpeters Jake Baldwin, Dave Neves, Josh Gilbert, David Adewumi, and Tree Palmedo, as well as trombonists Michael Prentky and Eric Stilwell.  Outside of NEC she taught Dave Douglas, Ambrose Akinmusire, Jon Crowley and many others

Considered the foremost authority and teacher of the Carmine Caruso method, shef1400b attracted professional brass players from around the world. Her personable style contributed to Frink’s success as a clinician, lecturer, and conductor. In addition to her work ranging from junior high school wind ensembles to professional jazz orchestras, she was also a featured artist at the International Trumpet Competition in Kiev, and the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Goteborg, Sweden, and a member of the ITG Board of Directors.

NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory. The brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became President of the Conservatory in 1967, the Jazz Studies faculty has included six MacArthur “genius” grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters, and alumni that reads like a who’s who of jazz. Now in its 44th year, the program, headed by Ken Schaphorst, has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers.

As Mike West writes in JazzTimes: “NEC’s jazz studies department is among the most acclaimed and successful in the world; so says the roster of visionary artists that have comprised both its faculty and alumni.”  The program currently has 114 students; 67 undergraduate and 47 graduate students from 12 countries.

John Weldon Cale and Laurie Fink …

Two different people who have left the world a better place. Two folks who demonstrate that obtaining mass fame is not becessary to label a death tragic .

Tragically so …



 Related articles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.