Saturday, July 14, 2007

D. Jay Bradley d. 6/25/2007

You can go to his website to see all of the amazing sorts of things he did over his lifetime. I'll tell you how he helped me. You should, however, snap up his CDs (link on the site) if you don't have them, I don't know how long supplies will last and, of course, after that...

My first public, crafted cabaret show, Always a Bridesmaid, happened just under a zillion years ago. 3 weeks before the first show date my singing coach/musical director/accompanist started treatment for a cocaine "problem" Ohio. I scrambled around and, through my limited contacts, found a gentleman who was actually a percussionist but who could play piano and was very kind and did the shows for the agreed upon fee. One night one of the awesome waitresses took me aside and she said, "Honey, that guy's not doing you any favors." I explained where he came from "Yeah, you go in there and ask Sidney (the proprietor of the venue) for some names of musical directors. You're good, you need to get someone better." I got a list and, like 2 years later, for my next show, Canine Replacement Therapy, I tried out a couple of people. One guy was very expensive. One woman I met and sang with at a piano bar and she was lovely but we didn't totally connect. The third guy was Jay.

From that point on he's arranged music for me, helped me write patter for the show, coached my singing, coached my backup band, played for and produced 2 of the tracks for my CD, and generally made my musical life in NYC possible. He was one of the best teachers, of any subect, that I have ever had.

(Strangely, during the run of Canine Replacement Therapy one of Jay's brothers died unexpectedly and he had to miss a couple of shows in order to go home for the services. He found me a replacement accompanist [the guy I looked at before who was too expensive], negotiated the same payment schedule for that accompanist, cleaned up the charts and talked the guy through the show before he left. Above and beyond the call of duty was a way of life for him.)

Since I last wrote I made a bunch of assumptions, then did some googling, then had Pony Express do some googling and finally got some answers. Jay has battled some health problems for most of the time I've known him. He had diabetes and nearly lost a toe last summer but worked through it and kept all his digits. According to Cabaret Hotline Online, he had flown over to Greece to play for a Greek cabaret artist. He has played for her regularly for many years, though less frequently in the recent past. After 9 hours of airline delays to finally connect to Mykonos he arrived. The following morning, reportedly in good spirits, he rented a moped and hit a cafe for breakfast with a plan to visit to the owners of the cabaret venue later in the day. Apparently he finished breakfast, got on the moped and collapsed. He was dead when he got to the hospital. I assume that indicates a blood clot from all the sitting on airplanes and whatnot.

My previous assumptions, given the talk of prolonged illness, included an undignified and painful end. I feel so much better knowing that he went quickly in a place he loved while on a trip for the career her loved enough to work his ass off for. I once made a joke about how he must have hated piano lessons and practicing when he was a kid and he was quick to correct me. He always practiced and it made him an unparalleled musician.

I am so grateful to him for everything he has taught me. I am also enormously grateful for the Christmas cheer he gave me and allowed me to share. You guys know how freaking hard it is for me to harbor much less distribute any of that. This past Christmas I attended his final (mostly) annual Christmas show with Alita and Carmencita. As I think I recorded for posterity I cried through the whole thing. Live music does that to me, especially the good stuff, and Jay's stuff was always good. The waitress at the swanky joint served Alita's ginger ale dolled up in a special glass with straws and umbrellas and cherries. Carmencita and I sang harmonies when the audience was invited to join in for Silent Night. Alita was focused and soaking it all in. One of Jay's trademarks for the shows were phone calls from Santa. Santa calls in and Jay has a little conversation with him and tries to help him with the burdens of the season. This year there was also a special video conference with Mrs. Claus. I thought Alita was going to vibrate at a high enough frequency that she'd actually be beamed into Mrs. Claus lap a la Star Trek she was so excited by that bit. I am so intensely grateful to Carmencita for making the trip into Manhattan on a cold, gray Sunday and for Jay for doing one last show so that A could have that experience. A lot of people do a lot of wonderful things but nobody did that better than Jay did.

Through the message boards at Cabaret Hotline Online I've found more information about donating to the memorial fund (beautiful picture of him at that link) to help pay for bringing Jay's body back and wrapping up his affairs. His sister has also posted thanks and some information. Most importantly she said that she had promised Jay that his 2 cats would have a home with her. I was worried about them and so were a lot of other people on the boards.

So, I'm going to go to the memorial and I'm going to write a note to his remaining siblings and one to his mom. Usually I'm the one who gets up the gumption to ask someone to dance only after the band's gone home. At the last Christmas show Jay's mother was in attendance. She is his Christmas inspiration and I'd heard a lot of lovely stories about her. After the show I went to her table and told her I was a student of Jay's and how wonderful he was and I thanked her for sharing him with us. She was, of course, polite but modest about the whole thing and thanked me back. I can't imagine how hard this must be for her to lose a second child.

It's still a huge loss. It's still another one in the Fuck! column for 2007. I feel better, though, about how it happened. I just wish is hadn't happened for another, say, 40 years or so.


  1. Anonymous5:02 PM

    Beautiful!! He was a great musician but an even better person. I'm glad you are going to the memorial and I will contact the fund.

  2. This is a beautiful memorial post, Kizz.

  3. Sounds like a great guy. Nice post...I feel like I got to know him a little.

    Sorry for your loss.

  4. Anonymous9:55 PM

    I am a friend of his from California and just recently heard of his passing, but am completely heart broken. I regularly sing his arrangement of Santa Baby with my carolers as do many of us back in the land of La La.

    We here, constantly spoke of Jay's generosity, humor, and sense of goodness. I am so fortunate to have known such a kind spirit and amazingly talented musician.

    I am truly sorry for OUR loss...

    Ron Hills

  5. Anonymous9:51 PM

    I am a friend of his from California and I will be at the memorial tomorrow night. Thank you for writing this, it is beautiful. I knew this wonderful man for 30 years and I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he's gone. I hope we have a chance to connect tomorrow but if not, thank you again.

  6. Anonymous12:26 PM

    O M G !! W O W !! We met Jay when he was working on a cruise ship in May 2006 and were so blessed by his music. We couldn't track him down after that. Couldn't figure out why; and just chaulked it up to "one of those things." Now we know why. :-( In April, we're going on another cruise with same line, and I promised my hubby I'd track down Jay, to see if he was still working in that venue. In the process, I found this. So sad. And so sorry. Take care. Jean & Herb Stahl, Glenside, PA. Jay
    played "Someone to Watch Over Me" for us!

  7. Anonymous4:26 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Anonymous1:25 PM

    I met Jay at Dont Tell Mamas. What a talented man, full of cheer. I bought his Christmas album: "Dont Let Christmas Pass You By", my wife and I play it each year to this day, 11 years after his passing. We've missed Jay and hope he Rests in Peace. Mike