Only a few words here, because the subject is, as Kris Tokarski wrote, “bittersweet.” One of my heroes — a player and singer of amazing grace, the cornetist and singer Connie Jones, has retired from performance due to ill health.
The trombonist Charlie Halloran wrote this morning on Facebook, “Pretty amazing playing alongside Connie Jones for his final performance. He’s headed into an unbelievably well earned retirement. But man, how am I going to hear those melodies without him just to my right?! Even today he played at the highest level, world class. Congrats Connie!”
That was Connie — among friends Tim Laughlin, Michael Pittsley, Chris Dawson, Katie Cavera, Marty Eggers, and Hal Smith — in November 2012 at the San Diego Jazz Fest.
Connie’s art comes from his heart, and it has touched ours. His music has been quiet, gentle, searching — apparently simple melodic embellishment for those who aren’t listening closely, but truly a journey of small elegant surprises. A Connie solo is like walking in a field and discovering a small purple blossom, fragrant, fragile.
His has never been a loud art. It doesn’t abuse the air. But it has been the most singular lesson: how to breathe warm air into metal and create lasting song. How to take familiar words and melody and infuse them with new yet lasting truth.
When I was a semi-Californian, I had the privilege of seeing and hearing Connie in performance in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 (as well as in New Orleans at the Steamboat Stomp in 2015). I came to him late in his career, and thus missed thousands of opportunities, but Connie never objected to being video-ed . . . so I have posted more than a hundred of his quiet poetic masterpieces on this blog and on YouTube. (And more have not yet been seen.) Most of those performances have had Connie at the side of Tim Laughlin, someone who completely understood Connie’s genius and took very good care of him.
I urge you to return to those performances and to Connie’s recordings with Tim, with Dick Sudhalter, and in other contexts. Connie’s delicacy, his striving to find deep emotions in familiar material, has always shown him the most subtle of poets.
I wish him joy and health and ice cream in his retirement, alongside Elaine. I send love and admiration and gratitude.
May your happiness increase!