Jackie McLean and Eddie Stress
Volume CVI, No. 6June, 2006
JACKIE MCLEAN, SAX MASTER
Eddie Stress, 89, my dearest and only brother, left us and the music community on April 3. He played trumpet, flugelhorn and violin and was a member of Local 802 since 1943. He was a talented musician and arranger whose likes I have never known. He played with the great old bands like Jan Savitt, Mal Hallet, Carmen Cavallerro, Charlie Barnet and more. He is survived by myself and his wife Kathleen. He is also survived by Lucy, the cockapoo dog he loved so much. Additionally, he leaves behind another artist, Paul Tuthill, who became his dear friend and music companion. Eddie practiced until he could blow his trumpet no more or read the music or play the violin. We will miss him very much.
In jazz, as in the martial arts, we follow a lineage. A player’s style is always influenced by his or her teachers, no matter how that style may evolve over the course of one’s career. Sometimes we are so in awe of our teachers we forget that they too have mentors to whom they are indebted.
Jackie McLean, 74, died on March 31. His lineage includes Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Miles, Mingus and Blakey, but it began long before them. Perhaps this lineage can be said to date back to the musicians who sang the blues by the Mississippi delta, at night after a long day of picking cotton. Perhaps it goes back even further than that. The lineage continues today, with friends and colleagues such as Rene McLean, Steve Davis, Jimmy Greene, Abraham Burton, Julius Tolentino, Antoine Roney and me.
Jackie was my teacher and my mentor. Years ago he gave me a copy of a review of his from a European magazine. On it he wrote: “To Sue — keep on sounding like you do. Your friend, Jackie McLean.”
That’s the kind of man he was — he knew that a quarter-century down the road, he might be gone, but I would have this remembrance of him. I also have the leather horn case he had given me because he saw me riding my bicycle to his house for lessons with a hard case strapped to my back.
I also have the memory of the injured bird that he was nursing back to health after finding it lying on the ground in his backyard. I have the memory of his funny stories; his jazz history classes at Hartt that were standing-room-only; and his continuing struggle to get the same recognition and support for jazz that was given to classical music.
He and his wife Dollie had their own little school as well — the Artists Collective, providing training in the arts for the people of their community in Hartford, Connecticut. The “house that Jackie and Dollie built” is now, 35 years later, a 40,000 square foot, $7.6 million, state-of-the-art facility.
At Jackie’s funeral, he was honored by the presence of several hundred people, and was eulogized by leading figures in the arts, in politics, and in the spiritual community. His entire family was there, right down to his five great-grandchildren.
Jackie left another gift for me — and for you: his music. His music, and his message, will live on, for as long as there are those with ears to hear.
© 2006 Sue Terry