I last saw trumpeter / singer / benefactor / tireless festival organizer Mike Durham in November 2012 at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party. Although he was recovering from minor surgery, he was entirely himself, masterfully running the huge enterprise with wit and love.
A few weeks into 2013, I was told that he was suffering from a grave illness and would not recover — news I was asked to keep to myself.
Yesterday, his daughter posted this on Facebook:
Dear Mike’s Facebook friends….for those of you that do not know already, I have some sad news. This is Cassie Durham, Mike’s daughter, and I am writing to tell you that Dad is seriously ill having being diagnosed with terminal (and untreatable) brain tumours on January 22nd. Things have moved on very fast and he is now in a hospice in Newcastle. I could not think of another way of letting everyone know and this seemed a good an option as any. As you can imagine, it has been a huge shock to Mum and Dad and my brother and I and all I can say is that he is comfortable and is not in any pain….say a wee prayer for him all of you – thanks.
This news makes me so sad. I will have more to say about Mike eventually, but I thought, “Since we can send love through the universe just in our focused thoughts, why not send some of it to a man who has brought nothing but love to us?”
I don’t mean a message to his family — who must be suffering with what is unendurable already. But I would like to imagine Mike comforted by love.
If you’ve appreciated any of the videos I and others have taken at Whitley Bay; if you’ve dug Mike’s own playing live or on disc; if you’ve had a good time because of him, send him a wordless THANKS.
A “wee prayer” is never wasted.
And here’s a JAZZ LIVES prayer suggestion. Find a track with a hot trumpet passage and play it louder than usual. Play it again.
May the gentle spirits of Louis, Papa Joe, Muggsy, and Mike’s other friends and heroes guide him from one bandstand to the next.
“This one’s for you, Papa Mike.”
Here’s Mike in action — as trumpeter and spiritual leader — in a jam session at the Victory Pub in July 2010, with friends Andy Schumm, Martin Seck, Attila Korb, and ten others, moving easily through MY GAL SAL. Mike gave us two gifts: not only did he play his horn but he made it possible for lovely jazz to go on all around him:
And the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party is rolling along — musicians booked, tickets sold, everything pointed forward under the guidance of some of Mike’s devoted musician friends and his two young lieutenants Julio Schwarz Andrade and Jonathan David Holmes . . . so the music will go on, as he would have wanted.
May your happiness increase.