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.