You could say many things about Eric Offner. You could note his birthplace (Austria, 1928) or the date of his death (June 3, 2014). You could sum up his distinguished career in trademark law, or refer to his autobiography. But what might be most important about Eric is that he was transformed by the experience of jazz, and, as a result, founded the Sidney Bechet Society which produced 17 seasons of live hot jazz concerts. (The true-to-life photograph of Eric was taken by our friend, photographer Geri Goldman Reichgut.)
We know that people can contribute greatly to the health and vitality of an art form without being artists themselves, and Eric was one of those people. His distinguishing characteristic, to me, was a determined focus on an ideal: the kind of music his hero Sidney Bechet both played and embodied: hot, intense, impassioned, reaching back to a New Orleans past but simultaneously alive in the present.
The Sidney Bechet Society is honoring its president and founder with a concert this coming Monday (at the late-twilight hour of 7:15) at Symphony Space, which is at 95th Street and Broadway in New York City. It features the clarinetist Evan Christopher, trumpeter Byron Stripling, pianist Bobby Floyd, string bassist Kelly Friesen, and drummer Marion Felder. I know they will fill the room with music that both celebrates and mourns a man wholly devoted to the sounds that have so often healed us.
Here is the link where you can purchase tickets.
Like the music he believed in, Eric was determined — devoted to an ideal. And that ideal will show its durability, its joy and ferocity this Monday night.
May your happiness increase!