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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Sad Loss: Drummer Tony Reedus

Woody Shaw's "Master of the Art" which, until recent unfortunate circumstances I had in my possession, was but one of the great albums to feature drummer Tony Reedus who sadly, has left us.

Tony Reedus: 1959 - 2008
A man with a big heart and a big beat, drummer Tony Reedus cared for other
people the way he cared about making a band swing.

"He was true blue, he'd do anything for you," said pianist Mulgrew Miller,
who knew Mr. Reedus as a youth in Memphis, where the drummer was born, and
later employed him in his trio in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"He was supersensitive," said his wife, violinist Jenise Grice-Reedus. "He'd
see a person who was sad and would go talk to that person, and would have
another friend for life."

"He was a funny guy," said organist and pianist Mike LeDonne, with whom Mr.
Reedus regularly performed. "Just a sweetheart, that's what Tony Reedus was,
and great to work with."

Mr. Reedus died Sunday of a pulmonary embolism en route by ambulance to
Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in the Richmond Hill section of Queens. He
had collapsed at John F. Kennedy International Airport after getting off an
American Airlines flight from Bologna, Italy, where he had been performing
with LeDonne. He was 49.

Mr. Reedus lived in Irvington with his wife and their 5-year-old daughter,
Cameron. He had been troubled with undetermined gastrointestinal issues
since August.

A superb musician, Mr. Reedus picked up the drums when he was 13 and broke
into the upper echelon of jazz just seven years later, performing and
recording with innovative trumpeter Woody Shaw. In a story in The
Star-Ledger in 2006, he likened joining Shaw to a baseball player "going
from single-A to the Show."

"It was music on such a high level," said Mr. Reedus.

He played on Shaw's albums "United" (Columbia) and "Master of the Art"

Mr. Reedus also played and recorded with such masters as trumpeter Freddie
Hubbard, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, saxophonist Benny Golson, and guitarist
Dave Stryker. Mr. Reedus also was a leader who made three solo albums.

Mr. Reedus was noted for his all-around drum kit acumen -- in particular,
his ride cymbal beat. "He had a real wide beat, and his feel on the cymbal
was unique," said Stryker, whose organ trio included Mr. Reedus for several
years. "He felt great to play with, just really swinging, dancing."

Of the importance of that beat, Mr. Reedus said in 2006, "It's a heavy
feeling that makes people want to pat their feet, sway back and forth. When
people come to see you play, they want to escape, they want to feel good.
Music is a celebration of life that comes from the heart."

Mr. Reedus returned to college in the middle of his career, earning a B.A.
in music from Rutgers University-New Brunswick in 2005. "The day he
graduated was one of the happiest days of his life," said Grice-Reedus, who
plays with the Garden State Philharmonic and the Plainfield Symphony and
leads the Ebony String Quartet.

Another was the birth of his daughter. "He loved being a father, being
married," said Stryker.

Linda Grice, Mr. Reedus' mother-in-law, said: "He loved his family; he took
good care of my daughter and my granddaughter."

Mr. Reedus' survivors include his brothers Chris and Keith, both of Memphis.

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