I’ve asked musicians who worked with Eddy and thus knew him better to write their loving recollections. But I will indulge myself here for a few sentences. Eddy always acted glad to see me, and he was happy to have his performances captured on film, but I am not sure he knew what to make of me (a reaction he was not alone in) so we never had a long conversation until the last time I saw him — where he enthusiastically spoke with great energy about the musicians he had played with when he was sixteen or seventeen. I was amazed and delighted and pursued him with the idea of doing a video interview, but — for all sorts of reasons I can only guess at — he was silent about the idea, which I regret greatly. At least he wrote some of it down on a letter to me which I will share in Part Five — but, ever the well-brought up Midwesterner, he addressed me as “Mr. Steinman,” curiously formal.
He was remarkable to me because of his indefatigable energy. He electrified any group that had the good fortune to have him at the center. He was genuinely a joyous sparkplug. The other people on the stand felt it, as did we. He bounced; he rocked; he was having a lovely time and wanted to make sure we did also. Eddy was a complete showman, but it felt completely honest. And his unpredictability was charming in startling ways. I never knew what he was going to do, and that was such a pleasure — anticipating the next brightly wrapped package and then savoring its contents.
His command of harmony was lovely; he knew where he was going and genially took everyone along with him. His solid rhythm was never mechanical, and in some ways his banjo artistry redeemed every caustic thing said about that stringed instrument; he was flexible and elastic and I imagine I hear the whole history of jazz and popular music in his playing. And that history — made current and shiny — came through in his incredibly broad repertoire: Doc Cooke and early Ellington, Django and Jerry Herman, his own lyrics to jazz classics.
He gave of himself with such deep generosity. And although each of us is unique, few of us can embody that idea so joyously.
May your happiness increase!