Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Resolution

In 2009 I think I'm going to adopt WWBD as my resolution. Brian had a way of interacting with people, all people, that was outstanding. Everyone was a friend. As I make my way through 2009 I hope I can keep that spirit alive.

Happy New Year to all who read this Blog. Thanks again to Tim for giving us this forum. Thanks also to everyone who has posted. It continues to be a comfort to me to see the impact that my "Little Brother" has had on the lives of others.

I just have to smile when I think about Brian taking my dog Maggie for a walk in the clouds.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hail and Farewell

Thanks Tim for the show information...we will attend!
Thank you Mike for letting us know where Brian is resting.
Yes, we are all thankful for the gift of knowing Brian and it is especially nice to hear how he brought music into your daughter's life. Passing it on is the greatest gift of all!

Hail and Farewell 12/30/08:
I was watching CBS Sunday Morning this weekend and they did a review of who left us this year. Charles Osgood’s introduction to the piece was, “They gave us their best and we give them our thanks.”
Then he showed clips of those who passed away. The list included Paul Newman, Robert Rauschenburg, George Carlin, Bo Diddley, Don LaFontaine, Jim McKay, Tim Russert, Yves Saint Laurent, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Johnny Griffin, William Claxton, Isaac Hayes, Eartha Kitt, Heath Ledger, Charleton Heston, Eddie Arnold, Estelle Geddy, Bernie Mac, Suzanne Pleshette, Harvey Korman, Dick Martin, Betty Paige, Sidney Pollack, Sir Edmond Hillary and 500 service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. I thought of Brian Casey, my friend Tim’s mother Jackie Craig and Rob Brumfield. The three people I knew who passed away this year. And I thought that hail and farewell is a lovely sentiment and so appropriate.
Accepting death as part of life has been a meditation I’ve worked on a lot because I’ve had a problem with death since my early twenties when my high school sweetheart and very young husband died in a car crash. I think that sort of set me up to be anti death for the last 18 years. When Brian died this year I was especially torn because he was connected to a part of my joyful youth that somehow became more distant with his passing. That’s kind of a selfish thing to feel because losing your youth is totally normal and is actually an honor, but I felt it. I also felt regret that I didn’t stay in closer contact with Brian through his less joyful times when he was struggling. I’ve also been thinking about the greater tragedy of losing someone young and being the parent of that person. I’m especially sympathetic to Brian’s parents because I know that no parent wants to out live their child. They seem very strong in their faith so I trust that this will guide them through.
The holidays have been both hectic and reflective for me. (Maybe not the best combination). I’ve been thinking about Brian and enjoying some of the musical gifts I have of his from his parents. My exploration of his CDs continues and I became fixated on this “Spellbinding Piano of Burma” CD. I’ve listened to it over and over again while I work in my studio-the title does not lie- its spellbinding! I also put in Madonna’s “Ray of Light” CD that he had and it is so good! I would never have thought to get that CD but its so positive and spiritual. Thanks Brian!
There are plans for a celebration of Brian’s work at Comfest this year too. Its not clear what exactly will be done and whether it will be one set or more, or what it will involve but there will be something musical in his honor. I believe Daryl from Monkeys Retreat is open to suggestions and will be working this out with Steve so if anyone has an idea and wants to participate I would suggest contacting Steve Perakis.

Wishing everyone a thankful, healthy and happy New Year.
Michelle Lucey

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Two Upcoming Shows

Just wanted to let everyone know there are two performances featuring Brian's music coming up soon:

Friday January 2, 2009
Honk Wail & Moan
Rumba Cafe
2507 Summit St.
Featuring Brian's music (of course!) as well as that of Sun Ra, Charles Mingus, and others.

Thursday January 15, 2009
OSU Urban Arts Space
50 W. Town St. (the former Lazarus building)
A performance of several seldom (if ever) heard chamber music works by Brian.
Free Admission

Please come out if you can - Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Warmth of the Holidays

May everyone who knew and loved Brian feel warmth from the memories of him and his music this season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Gifts

I think Brian understood the true meaning of Christmas. We all get caught up in the material aspect of the holiday. Brian had a way of making his niece and nephews feel special. Our daughter Emily was born on 12/7/01. For Christmas that year he gave her a song. Framed the sheet music with a nice yellow background that matched her room. He played the song on my Parent's piano when we all got together. A few years later when he was at Ballet Met he got her (and us) Nutcracker tickets and took us to the show. That little 3 year old girl was queen for the day in her "pretty dress" and "shiney shoes".

That was Uncle Brian. He introduced the arts to the kids in his life and they responded.

We saw good friends of ours this past weekend. Their daughter was Gladys Herndan in "The Best Christmas Pagent Ever" in Marysville. Emily loved the show and the boys had a great time as well. I think Brian would smile at that.

Three years ago we moved and brought the framed music with us. Emily wanted her new room purple so that was the color! I asked Brian at that time if it would be OK to change the background of the picture to fit the new room. He of course said it was OK. I never got around to it.

I'm not changing it now. I think it looks OK just the way it is. The way he made it. It's on our piano's music stand.

Merry Christmas to all who read this Blog. Thank you for all your love and support over these past few months.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Great Dream

I had a beautiful dream about Brian last night. We were writing poetry - and randomly passing each other on staircases. In Brian's poem, someone's eyes were like Crown Royal. I guess you know who you are!

Brian told me (as he often did) to forget my little problems and work on my writing. He said to tie ribbons around my words. I will, bro.

Giving thanks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Seasonal Thought

I turned 39 yesterday. This was the first birthday I've had since I was 1 where Brian hasn't been here to tell me how I "look" or "smell" or to try take my new toys. This is also the time of year where we traditionally give thanks. Family, friends, health, and even things like food on our table and a roof over our heads are things that make us humble. We also remember those people who have gone before us.

I think I can speak for everyone here that we are are thankful for knowing Brian--I know I am.

The best part about this holiday is we come together with friends and family. For those making the journey back to Central Ohio this week--welcome home, and bring a coat. We have had some requests for this information and are happy to share it. If you would like to visit Brian he is resting at:

Resurrection Cemetary, 9571 N High St.
Garden of Resurrection Section, lot #509
By Station 8 across from the bell tower

For all the thoughts, prayers, cards, stories, e-mails, and hugs all I can say, for the entire Casey family is--

Thank You.


Columbus and Brian

Can anyone be of help? I will be visiting Columbus and would like to have the opportunity to visit a site--if there is one--of Brian's burial. I welcome any information about possible sites where I might pay my respect to Mr. Casey.

Thanks in advance.

Sara Wookey
Los Angeles

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Coupon From Brian

Uff Da Coupon

This is a "coupon" that Brian sent out to numerous friends and fellow musicians via MySpace earlier this year. I laughed when I received it, thinking it was a great idea and a typical "Brian" thing to do (though I don't know if the word "typical" could ever be used to describe him).

Though it didn't seem like he would have needed an excuse or reason to write even more music - among the many other adjectives that could be used to describe Brian, "prolific" was definitely one. There were hundreds of pieces that were written for and performed by Honk Wail & Moan and many other groups over the years, as well as I'm sure hundreds more that were never heard, but are buried somewhere in file cabinets, hidden in stacks of manuscript paper, and digitized on the hard drive of his laptop, waiting to be discovered.

And I'm sure there were many more potential masterpieces that were never fully realized, or even written down at all. Brian struck me as the kind of person who had so many ideas running around in his head that it was an endless, impossible struggle to get them all out where anyone else could see them. He created so much in his lifetime, but I know there would have been so much more to come - we only saw (or heard) the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Hopefully, in the weeks, months and years ahead, we'll continue to discover more of his musical creations that are new to our eyes and ears. In the meantime, redeeming his coupon will sadly have to be included in the "I always meant to..." chapter of my autobiography - at least in this lifetime.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wishing Brian were here

I still have not found the right words to place here that will represent the loss I feel from Brian's passing. Someday...
But, for now a quick insert in that I wish Brian were here to witness the election of Barack Obama. I know Brian was passionate about the political sphere and, I think, would breathe a sigh of relief with us now. Perhaps, somewhere, he is.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Putting some words to this experience

It’s 2:30 am and I can’t sleep. The full moon is approaching in a day. Yesterday was my little brother’s birthday. He’ll be 34 this year. My good friend and bandmate Brian Casey died this month 9/8/08 at the ripe old age of 36! Maybe I used to think that was old when I was 21 but now I think that’s the same age as my baby brother and it’s too young to retire! This has been really hard for me as well as the whole music community b/c he was such a positive spirit and prolific song writer.
We always had a great connection while playing together in Mary Adam 12 for so many years. It was a very childlike and fun relationship at the time and we made up goofy names or sayings for things that we found very funny. On stage it was always joy and musical surprises that kept the shows fun and full of that party and celebratory atmosphere. He also really felt the music in his soul so there was a wonderful combination of serious musicianship and joyful humor coming through at the same time. What an awesome time we had!
Steve Perakis told me about Brian’s death on the steps of the Ross Museum in Delaware. I had gone to see the exhibit since I knew he or Tammy would be working. He had just found out the night before from Brian’s parents. As soon as he told me I just had to sit down and cry because it was such an unbelievable feeling to imagine Brian being gone. He was not someone I expected to die so young. He seemed like he would become an eccentric older jazz composer who would be working with groups and artists and would have a crazy beard, wild hair and funky glasses. I can picture him now in my imaginary future as a brilliant professor or director. So far the memories I have popping up in my head include many long and fun van rides with the band, the occasional wonderful foot rub after a show, finding him making out with a girl backstage one night (to his gentlemanly credit she became his steady girlfriend), tears in his eyes and him kneeling on one knee with his head down the last time he performed with MA12 at the end of the set, him singing Sunny Side Of The Street at Staches and throwing in a line about how he’d be rich as Dan Dougan, many horn parts that will always make me think of him, the bright look in his eyes and his big smile any time we’d run into each other just out and about, his great voice where he sometimes stutters while making his point, the time I told him years later that I often thought about the album we recorded but never released b/c of a band fight about the mixing and I wondered if I had just been too young and clueless not to recognize that it was genius and he laughed and said “I was also young and clueless and I can reassure you it wasn’t great!” , and my last memory of him visiting me at Comfest in his soaking wet tshirt after the storm and even after I offered a dry shirt he wanted to wear his shirt b/c of its funny saying about musicians and then later I saw him up on the jazz stage with Honk, Wail and Moan in his soaking tshirt and I thought to myself that you can’t even read the saying and he looked cold! My regret is that I missed his last show with HWM at Dick’s.
On the way to the calling hours I had WCBE on and they played a HWM tune and Sunny Side of the Street. It was a beautiful sunny day and I felt happy to hear that song and think of Brian singing it. His family displayed a lot of great photos and band memorabilia at the funeral home. At the funeral Steve spoke a lot about their work together and Brian’s composing style and how he would bring a chart in for the band with different colored shapes to describe how it should feel or go in that section. He said that the guys all trusted Brian enough to just go “okay, sounds good, I can play blue squiggle mark…”, and they would just go for it.
A week later Brett Burleson turned his gig into a tribute night to Brian at Dick’s Den and I was very moved by all the performers who showed up and played in his honor. Highlights for me included HWM with Tammy P singing “Demon Gravity” and the New Basics New Orleans style tribute including “Oh When The Saints” with Tim Perdue telling a funny story about Brian making clear to everyone that “Saints” is not a happy tune. An emotional moment for me was when our old friend John Conway came up to me and sang (actually, he did his best trombone impression) of Brian’s horn riff from “Holy Roller” an old MA12 song. He said, “That’s all I can say,” and shook his head and looked down. It’s a bittersweet feeling to be aware of how wonderful it is that someone’s music can make them live on but they are now physically gone and there will be no more smiles or words or music coming in the future. It is all retrospective now.
The next weekend Jim and Judy Casey, Brian’s parents, invited his friends to come and take Brian’s music, books, Cds, albums and mementos. I chose some books about Ellington and Mingus, Cds, an old MA12 press kit and lots of cassette tapes. It was a whole box full of stuff. I’d been thinking about a song Brian wrote for MA12 called “Please Don’t Come Back From The Moon” so I hoped to find a recording of it. I still have a cassette player in my car so I put all the tapes in my car and figured I’d listen to them all eventually. I had to drive to Cleveland one day for work so I started with Dick Mackey ‘Because of You’ then put in some MA12 live show that I didn’t remember and cued up was “Please Don’t Come Back From The Moon” ! Then I put in another one and about 2 songs into it on came Brian singing “Sunny Side Of the Street” from our last show at Staches. It was very cosmic since I’d been thinking about both of those songs all week. The sun started to set as I was driving home and Brian’s vocals and funny lines he threw in made me laugh. It was a happy moment. I was grateful for that too because the day before was my weepy Sunday. It just hit me hard that he was gone and I basically cried all day. I sat at the piano for a while and either my mourning or Brian channeled a song to me dedicated to Brian so I have a new song for him. It’s called “Moonlight” in honor of his fascination with the moon and space in general.
The Saturday night before my weepy Sunday I had a dream that Brian came to visit and said goodbye. We were at a music festival and we were in basically what was the green room for the venue and there was some problem with whatever band was playing and I had to deal with it and Brian was just hanging back in the shadows watching. He was supportive in his energy and when I had a moment we walked outside and he said he just stopped by to visit but had to leave so we said good bye and we both knew he was going for good and that he had already passed on. It was very sad watching him walk away in my dream. I think that was the catalyst for weepy Sunday.
The cassette adventure continues every time I drive somewhere. So far I’ve continued on with a Yumbambe ‘New Charts’ tape, New Basics Brass Band ‘Generous Portions’, Rickie Lee Jones ‘Traffic From Paradise’ and Duke Ellington ‘Monologue’ which is way cool by the way.
Well, its 3:13 am and I’m finally getting a little tired but not tired enough to sleep!
The journey will continue…

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Brian Casey Scholarship Fund

From Stephanie Stein in California:

Hi Tim,

I don't believe we've met, but a few of us who were friends with Brian over the years and now live in L.A. put together a scholarship fund in his honor. Sara Wookey and myself have helped contact people and set it up. The Pasadena Jazz Institute holds a jazz summer camp for kids every year, and we have started a fund to send a deserving student to the camp next summer. The Brian Casey Scholarship Fund has been established at the following location:

The Pasadena Jazz Institute
260 East Colorado Blvd., #206
Pasadena, CA 91101

If anyone we haven't contacted out here - or folks back in Ohio - would like to contribute, they can send a donation to the above address, attention to Paul Lines, with Brian's name in the memo.

Thanks so much, and thanks for setting up the blog. It is nice to read so many memories of such a wonderful and talented person.

Thanks Again,
Stephanie Stein
Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brian

Every October 4, I would call Brian and sing some version or another of Happy Birthday. So here it goes...

Happy, happy, happy birthday.
Happy, happy, happy birthday.
Happy, happy, happy birthday.
To you, to you, to you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm a Lucky Man

For 16+ years I shared a bedroom with Brian. It was more than just a room. It was our place. Two brothers doing what brothers do. Baseball cards, matchbox cars, Casey Kasem and the Sunday Top 40. Setting up a "fort" to barrage our sister with paper airplanes or rubber bands. Jamming Cheap Trick and The Beatles on the turntable. Playing on Sunday mornings until 8:15 so we could move in to the rest of the house. Never making fun of me for having the closet light on. Sleeping closer to the door (because the kidnappers would get him first).

As a kid, nobody could have had a better best friend. Adult too.

I'm sorry I spit in your mouth. (actually I can't believe you thought it would just hang there)

Don't worry Brian, Dad will turn off our radio when he goes to bed.


Monday, September 22, 2008

From Dick's Den

Here are some photos from the memorial at Dick's Den last Thursday. It was a great night - thanks to everyone who came out to listen and/or play. Click on any photo to go to the Brian Casey set on Flickr, which includes more from that night.

(Sorry, those of you on the right sides of these photos got cut off due to insufficient column width - click on each photo to see the full frame.)

The New Basics

Lucey's Maze

The Sax Section


Sunday, September 21, 2008

From An Old Friend

Here's a message I received from an old friend of Brian's...

Hi Tim,

I don't think we've met. My name is Elizabeth Lessner, I am local restaurateur and I knew Brian when we were teenagers. I just wanted to share a memory of Brian with you if you would like to add it to your blog. Thanks for making it, it is so hard to read but beautiful.

I met Brian when I was only 15 years old. He was two years older than me and we spent every single day together during the summer of 1989 working on a play at the Columbus Junior Theatre. I have wonderful pictures from that time, I must find them. Most nights, he would borrow his father's car and we would sneak into Dick's Den to hear jazz. He taught me everything about jazz and I loved learning from someone so passionate.

At the end of the summer I moved away and we kept in touch writing letters for a while. Ten years later I moved back to Columbus and it was like he'd become a Columbus celebrity. I loved searching the weeklies for his name and his many bands and musical affiliations. I loved riding the bus past Dick's Den hoping to see his name on the window. It's been years since we've spoken, it occurred to me to reach out to him when a mutual friend was talking about him recently. I'm sorry for what I missed. His wit, kindness and brilliance is what I remember most.

My heart goes out to you and Brian's friends and family during this very difficult time.


Elizabeth Lessner

Jonathan's Eulogy

Because I knew I would be unable to get through it (writing this intro is hard enough), I asked my husband Jonathan (Brian's brother-in-law) to speak at the funeral. Not intending to discount their relationship at all, I originally wanted to "use" Jonathan as my mouth, because there was so much I personally thought should be said. Jonathan, though, bounced some general thoughts off of me, sat down, and wrote. He read me his "draft" and I didn't think a single word needed to be added or changed. I will be forever grateful for the words he spoke so eloquently:

For Brian.
I can’t make sense out of the senseless. I keep trying and it just doesn’t work. At these times, more often than not, I turn to music. And there’s Brian again.

Brian loved music and loved being a professional musician. He often worked multiple jobs so that he could continue doing what he loved. Imagine that – putting that much time into something just for the privilege of doing what you love so that you can do more of it. I can barely tolerate doing one thing so that I can do something I like, but Brian remained in a different league so he could BE a professional musician. I admire him for that and I don’t know too many people – maybe none – who would do that.

We all have our favorite Casey tunes. “Scientists discover nightlife on Mars” and the other version of the politically corrected title “Aw Heck, Let’s Go to Mars” are both up there. “Don’t you methyl with my ethyl” is mine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung that while I pass Chemical Abstracts, Bethel Road (because it rhymes), or a chemistry lab – which can get kind of annoying when you work near a chemistry department.

His music found its way to kings, presidential candidates, barflies, brides, and babies.

I try not to say the phrase “Words can’t express how I feel” because its disrespectful to poets. Brian had the luxury of being both a poet and a musician. He could say things with and without words. He could complete silent films with his thoughts, bringing them alive.

Reading his FaceBook page, he lists a number of bands and releases where you can hear his music. He also says that his music plays in his living room, kitchen, car, and head. Just this morning, we listened to a new composition that used a cell phone set to vibrate, license plates, guitars as percussion instruments, and others instruments that I hadn’t heard of – yet he commanded.

I got a kick out of reading who he lists as his musical influences. Ellington and Mingus, Brian Wilson and Tom Waits. You’ve got to like that. He also lists the architects Corbusier and Xenakis, the numbers pi and phi, and silence. That’s Brian.

You could probably also throw in Mike Myers and Monty Python. He loved a joke. I don’t know how many times he’s seen Austin Powers, but he could quote chapter and verse of those movies and insert them at the oddest times. He never let the formality or appropriateness of a time dictate a punch line, and I really loved him for that.

Brian’s inside jokes -- and he had thousands of them -- gave people a quick connection to him, like you were “in” with him very fast.

Brian was a good musician because he loved being a musician. He was a good uncle because he loved being an uncle. He would write music for his nephews Henry, Sean, and Ryan, and his niece, Emily, often. I think he knew that you guys will grow out of toys, but grow into music. Henry and Emily, Brian loved you very much and loved playing with you too. Be sure to share Brian with Sean and Ryan as they grow up.

He had a unique bond with each of us. Those inside jokes helped. Its part of what makes it so hard to say goodbye. He was so many things because he loved being all of those things to all people.

The world got a little less musical on Monday.
The world got a little less poetic on Monday.
The world got a little less funny on Monday.
Brain, we miss you deeply.

Requiem for Brian

Dear Brian,

I wasn’t going to write anything, as I wasn’t someone who knew you intimately as a friend, roommate, or collaborator, but it occurred to me this week that you must have touched the lives of thousands of people in your lifetime, creating a web of connections, and I’m just one of those strands, but perhaps my remembrances will help fill in a few holes, and trigger a few other memories.

I remember you and Steve and a group of other players playing at Victorian’s Midnight CafĂ©, after being inspired by another jazz player’s system of and signals to communicate during a piece. You’d point to tell someone to solo, give another player the finger to tell them to stop soloing, and built whole pieces on the fly via improvisation. During one piece Steve’s phone rang, and I thought he’d ignore it, but he answered it, and passed it to you and that became part of the piece. The keyboardist did a fantastic solo that ended with him playing the keyboard with his nose while making chicken sounds. I could tell that everyone on stage was having a great time playing, and making music.

I remember a gig at the Distillery with Steve and others. halfway through the first set someone threw something at you from the bar. Ever the gentlemen, Steve issued a warning, followed by an offer of a round of drinks for the guys who had just been so rude, but when a bottle flew minutes later and hit an instrument, the gig was over. Such was the life of a giging musician in the campus area.

I remember coming to see the Brian Casey quartet playing in the basement of Donatos on a weeknight. Gina Jacobs was running the till, and I think the two of us got an almost private show. I had been listening to early Chet Baker, and the quartet had the ability to weave counterpoint in the same way Chet did, through a set of original tunes. I imagine there were a lot of almost private gigs like that. It clearly wasn’t about the money.

I remember lots of gigs at Dicks Den with Honk Wail and Moan. I learned that they never started quite on time, and that when they did, they’d always start with “Moanin”. The break between sets might seem as long as the first set was, but the music was worth waiting for.

I remember a Sun Ra gig at Little Brothers. The hall was pretty dead when I got there, but at about 10PM, it seemed as if the whole crowd from the dance concert that had been going on the same evening came down, and the energy flowed from the audience to the stage and back again. Jim Capeletti did a movement improv at the foot of the stage, and Jordan Fuchs came over to stick a dollar down his pants, as if he were a stripper. If your fellow musicians were your biggest fans, then dancers must have been a close second.

I remember so many dance concerts with your music: SadFish with Stacey Reichman, Dither with Gina Jacobs, Tere O’Connor’s Dance Downtown piece with your crazy songs that you called “pop songs”, but were anything but. I remember you standing in the middle of one of the Sullivant Hall studios halfway through a performance and saying “special sensors placed under your seats during the first part of tonight’s performance have been gathering data as input to allow us to present you with the most pleasing music possible for the second half” And then you did a lovely Baritone solo.

I remember stopping by Lillian Gray’s house once, and the two of you were engaged in a songwriting session. I think you played me a selection, and I said “It’s not done yet, right? There’s no chorus!”, but I was wrong. You embraced the music as it came, and didn’t force it to fit the mold. I think that’s one important lesson that I learned from you: that you shouldn’t color within the lines, and should accept the accidents as treasures, Straight lines might look nice at first, but the ones that bend a little because they were drawn with a human hand are more interesting in the long run.

The other thing I learned was fearlessness. You were never afraid to share your creative work, sing, dance, wear loud shirts, cut your own hair, or play a new instrument in front of people. I think that if someone had handed you a bassoon, you would have been happy to be on stage struggling with it a week later while playing a new composition. “I’m an artist,” John Lennon once said, “and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it” You did that with every instrument you touched, I think.

To whomever is handling the Casey music archives, two requests: there’s a recording of “Marla”, a Mary Adam 12 outtake from their first album in Brian’s collection somewhere, but he wasn’t interested in go rummaging around in the past, only looking ahead. It deserves to be heard. I can still hum “Under the Hudson Street Bridge” from the Brian Casey quartet shows. I hope some of those tunes were recorded. There are so many more. Please tell us that those musical moments weren’t ephemeral, they were too good to only be heard once.

Pity those of us left behind, as we’ll have to make do with a musical universe that’s a little smaller without you. We can only hope that wherever you are, you have your wry smile and horn with you, and are busy writing new tunes for a new audience.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

from Stefan Farrenkopf

Years ago Brian and I collaborated on a project to stage a swing musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare provided the book, and I had the concept and the resources – I direct theater at a high school – but I lacked the knowledge of the music of the period. I also needed a big band. And an arranger.

I called the right guy.

For about a year Brian and I met at Stauf’s countless times to put the show together. We laughed a lot. Brian had a sharp understanding of the play, and seemed to know a period song to suit every mood and thought in the show.

Brian and I worked for almost a year on our show A Midsummer Night’s Swing, or It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Dream, but, as always, the final weeks of rehearsals were rushed, and many of the arrangements that were performed were never finished on paper, including his original piece for the show, “Titania’s Lullaby.” It was beautiful, and I hate to think it’s gone.

The show was a big success, and working on it forged a friendship between Brian and me that stayed strong despite rarely seeing each other. I was surprised and thrilled, years later, when Brian dropped out of nowhere and onto my front porch for a birthday I had years later; we had no friends in common, really, and it had been ages since we’d talked. Brian knew that he wouldn’t know anyone there, but he came, alone, and was funny and sincere and fantastic. He had a great time. Seeing him was the highlight of the night for me.

I got a call from Brian a couple of months ago. Whenever we talked we talked a lot; it seemed that despite years between conversations, we had never really lost touch. Brian had an idea for a play and was looking for a playwright to help edit, or maybe to collaborate – I wasn’t sure which. I was excited about the chance to work with him again. His idea was to splice Waiting for Godot and Peanuts. Of course.

Honestly, I didn’t get it at first, but he was so excited I jumped in with him. After re-reading Godot and reading lots of Charles Schultz, it made sense. Alas, I lacked follow-through. I thought there would be time later. Nothing came of it, as far as I know.

(I’d be interested if Brian discussed this idea with any readers of this blog, and whether he ever pursued it. I’d love to know more about what he had in mind or had come up with.)

Last week I was considering what show to choose when or if I return to directing theater. I decided the show to do would be our version of Midsummer. I thought about how I needed to give Brian a call.

The Other Paper

Thanks to Lee Brown for writing an article about Brian that appears in today's edition of The Other Paper. You can read the article by clicking **HERE**

Also, don't forget about the show tonight at Dick's Den - hope to see you all there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From Chris Howes...

I knew Brian since our freshman year together at OSU in 1989. We were never close back then, but we shared many mutual friends and passed frequently in the halls of the music buildings. As we both evolved from awkward college kids into professional musicians in the Columbus community over the years we'd continue to run into each other, and our acquaintance became more and more friendly and comfortable. I'd have to say we became friends, in the way that anyone you've talked to in passing, with occasional long conversations, in dozens of nights over years at Dick's Den can be considered a friend.

Daniel Kelly and I invited Brian to contribute a composition for us to perform sometime around 1999- we rehearsed it and performed it live once or twice. Our intention was to do some kind of project performing his music- it didn't materialize only because we were busy and got sidetracked, something Brian never would have done apparently when it came to getting music off the ground. Anyway, we laughed our asses off playing that piece. It called for forearms on the piano and all kinds of crazy shit. Brian had a way of injecting stuff into his pieces that was totally out there and also seemed perfectly natural. He would acknowledge kind of matter of factly with a relaxed smile that yes, in fact, that was what he intended. And whatever we did with our interpretation, he was always easy to please and quick to compliment our efforts. Brian came to a rehearsal and hung with us. He was a really cool guy and a really nice guy, and his dedication to the music needs no affirmation from me

He set the standard high for all of us as musicians- he didn't just talk about it, he created new music all the time. I can't count the times I sat in stunned admiration watching Honk Wail and Moan, thinking, these motherfuckers are really doing something here. I guess that had a lot to do with Brian's initiative, energy, and those guys must have really respected him to play those gigs for $10 at Dick's Den for so many years....

I'm sorry I didn't get to know him better. Brian gained my utmost respect. He created so much that we all have shared and will continue to share.

Chris Howes

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Collecting: To Brian and friends from Anna

My many memories of Brian - from second grade at St. Tims though nights of philosophizing over cheap beer at Dicks - have a common thread. Brian delighted in the details of life with genius. I hope this poem brings to mind some of the joyful details you shared with him.


did you ever remember

how we collected

gingko leaves

outside the first grade doors

They fell

those few precious days

and we gathered them

into yellow piles

mindful of their splendor

and the feel of the waxy surface on our fingers

We laid claim to those few

that delighted us

in some random way

capturing some detail


to those who did not look

Then we collected

over the years

just the details

and relished

the absurd and the looking

in the precious days

that we remembered

all we had to make

was just our yellow piles of leaves

So I collected some for you today

a new store in my neighborhood

with a stenciled sign

“TV repair and groceries”

a fat man with an empty

shopping cart

in the middle of traffic

oh and I learned

how to draw penguins

from a library book

Though we won’t be leafing

through them

long hours

over beers

I will share them with you still when I am


or collecting

or remembering

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This Thursday @ Dick's Den...

Brett Burleson has graciously offered to turn his gig this Thursday night into an impromptu memorial concert for Brian. There will be performances by Honk Wail & Moan, as well as other bands and musicians Brian played with over the years. Everyone is welcome and things will be pretty informal, but if you want to play, you might want to check in with Brett before then to see what's going on. Hope to see you all Thursday.

Thursday September 18th
Dick's Den
2417 N. High St.
Columbus , OH 43202

Why Not?


A brief clip of Brian and I performing with the Sons of Gladys at the 2007 Elvis-a-Thon. Video courtesy of Joel Treadway at

Friday, September 12, 2008


To start with, here are a couple of recent photos. Click on any of them and you'll be linked to a set on my Flickr page that includes several more photos of Brian.

If you have photos you'd like to share, you should be able to include them directly in your post, or insert an HTML link to another site as well. If you have trouble, you can email them to me and I'll include them in my set - we'll get everything on here somehow...

Brian Casey

Brian Posing

So Long, Brian...

As many of you know, our friend Brian passed away earlier this week. Below is the obituary from the Columbus Dispatch, as well as a couple of other related links. I think we're all still in shock, but I've already heard many stories about Brian in the last few days that are definitely worth remembering - hopefully they'll all make their way here to be shared with everyone.


Brian A. Casey
CASEY Brian A. Casey, age 36, Monday, September 8, 2008, at his residence. Graduate of Bishop Watterson High School (1989) and The Ohio State University (1993) with a B.A. in Music. Founding member of Honk, Wail and Moan, a local jazz and swing band. Survived by parents, James and Judith Casey; brother, Michael (Linda) Casey; sister, Susan (Jonathan) Frantz; nieces and nephews, Henry Frantz and Emily, Ryan and Sean Casey. Friends may call Thursday 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at EGAN-RYAN FUNERAL HOME, 403 E. Broad St. Memorial Mass Friday 11 a.m., at St. Timothy Church, 1088 Thomas Lane. Private interment Resurrection Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Columbus Music Coop, 2895 Neil Ave., Apt. 390A, Columbus, OH 43202. Visit for condolences. Sign the online guestbook at


Article on (click here)

Article from the Columbus Dispatch (click here)

A musical genius.

I was fortunate to get to know Brian the last several years from playing in Honk, Wail, and Moan.
I always had extremely good times on those gigs having to put on heavy duty "reading glasses" to play Brian's music. I know I was in the presence of a genius and he always had more new compositions for us to play on each gig. It never got stale playing in this group. 

I found Brian's music to have two qualities that are always tough to accomplish for any composer. His music appealed to intellectuals and also to just recreational listeners who knew nothing of the "skyscraper chords" he liked to use often. He had the gift of the muse for certain, but never came off as an ivory tower snob, although he certainly could have had reason to be one if he chose. He was just a regular guy, quietly wise but without pretension, cheerful and upbeat, always. 

Brian and I shared in our grief earlier this year when our mutual composition teacher Dave Wheeler passed on in March.  It has been tough to say goodbye to these musical geniuses all in the same year.

I can picture Brian and Dave collaborating again on the other side.