An Appreciation: Mike Melvoin

By Brick Wahl

Mike Melvoin

I got a few wonderful emails from Mike Melvoin over the years. Beautiful things.  He wrote just as he talked, which is my favorite kind of writing, and then talked a lot like he played. Jazz players write the coolest emails sometimes, just perfect little written things, honest and funny and down to the bone true.  Anyway, this was the last one I got from Mike Melvoin. He was responding to my first Keeping It Real post. As usual, I was incapable of saying something intelligent in return. I get so flustered when a jazz master writes anything back, I don’t know what to say and I don’t think I said anything in reply to Mike except maybe a thanks. I had no idea he was so sick. You can’t tell from what he wrote here.  It’s from Jan 20th, just a month before he died.

Here’s what Mike wrote:

Dead on, Brick!

I pass along a couple of defining ideas to the occasional student I meet.

First: “The only thing more important than having a good time is having good time.”

And the former is dependent on the latter. The core purpose of our music hasn’t changed since we were hired to grease up Saturday night. If we achieved that, the music had a healthy fan base. If we put some other purpose in front, the fan base was sure to desert us as you are so right in observing. Those of us players who fire the blood pulse with the historic language of the blues put asses in seats. Not just geriatric or academic ones but across the board asses who come to us to feel good. 

And second: “There are no points for being admired, only for being believed.” 

I don’t do this to be thought of as a good player. I do this to get those who hear me to feel as good as I do.  Jazz well played is a physical music first and foremost.  Thank you for the much needed reminder.

Hoping your Saturday night is delicious and our music helped make it so.

Best,

Mike Melvoin

That last line says it all.  No wonder everyone’s missing him.  Very sorry to see him go.

2 thoughts on “An Appreciation: Mike Melvoin

  1. Oh Don, this is so much more meaningful that a funeral, tribute or an obituary. He did write as you describe in such a succinct manner. The last exchange I had with him was on Facebook lamenting the dismissal of the categories that we are still protesting. He made it known to NARAS how he felt but it is obvious that they don’t care about anyone’s opinion, regardless of who they are or were.

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  2. Well, I feel I ‘discovered’ Mike. Red and I were having dinner at Ted’s at the beach. The trio was struggling, I felt sorry for the piano player (Mike), and asked Red if we shouldn’t invite him over for a drink. Red agreed, so I got up, went over to Mike on the break and brought him back to our table….of course, the rest is history…We’ll be missing you Mike, Always, Rosie Mitchell

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