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 Cringe.com.

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 www.egan-ryan.com for condolences. Sign the online guestbook at www.dispatch.com/obituaries


Article on Cringe.com (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.