Too Much Death

There's way too much death in the air lately. It's always there but it's coming now in Tsunami waves.

British guitarist John Renbourn died on Thursday. Got the news yesterday. He was 70. I also got the sad news that my friend and fellow Stereophile writer Bob Reina passed away yesterday. He was 61. On March 21st, Free's extraordinary bassist Andy Fraser died. The great Clark Terry passed away February 23rd at 94.

Left Bank keyboardist Michael Brown who wrote "Walk Away Renee" among other "baroque rock" tunes also died on March 21st. He was 65. Daevid Allen, founder of Soft Machine and later Gong, also died recently at age 77.

Musicologist/author/blues popularizer (etc.) Samuel Charters, who produced the great Country Joe and the Fish Vanguard LPs as well as the extraordinary three LP set Chicago: The Blues Today! died March 17th. And jazz trumpeter Lew Soloff who played that famous "Spinning Wheel" solo passed away March 13th.

I'd meant to write a Clark Terry obit, but time got away from me and then the others started dying. I was going to sit down today and write about my friend Bob Reina but then the Renbourn news hit. In fact, I was preparing an obit for the late Paul Rosenberg, who along with the late Tony Federici co-founded Mondial/Aragon, the electronics company that began a few decades ago by producing a reasonably priced powerful amplifier designed by Dan D'Agostino (still alive), who, at the time, designed far more expensive electronics for his company Krell. The industrial design was by Robbii Wessen (still alive), who, during its heyday, did most of the cover art for The Absolute Sound.

I looked forward to going to the New York Auto show every spring with Federici and Rosenberg. We spent the afternoon and evening talking cars, not audio and it was fun. Rosenberg also played guitar in the annual Mondial band extravaganzas in which I participated as one of the vocalists. I've got some of the tapes and CDs and really should put some of it online.

But now, I'm not going to memorialize any of them. It's just too much over too short a period of time.

Tomorrow I'll go to the funeral home for Bob Reina's "viewing" and then on Wednesday to his funeral.

Most of his friends had no idea he was sick. He didn't want anyone to know he had a particularly aggressive form of esophageal cancer. I had no idea. Bob was a Wharton graduate, trained musician, serious oenophile, audiophile and of course husband and father.

And then there were the 150 lost in that plane crash suicide. Like I said, too much death.

But life goes on: The British Transatlantic edition of that Renbourn album is a short, pleasant, incredibly well-recorded album as as all of Renbourn's Transatlantic recordings, solo, with Bert Jansch and of course with Pentangle. The American Reprise editions, with unnecessary added studio reverb are mediocre, while the Lost Lakes 'digitally remastered' edition of Sir John A lot of is what originally led me to say "Digital preserves music like formaldehyde preserves frogs: you kill it and it lasts forever". Except that it doesn't, nor do any of us.

Time for a Renbourn/Pentangle marathon.

elliotdrum's picture

The great jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver.
Excellent rock and blues drummer Dallas Taylor.'s picture

to you Mikey for the loss of your dear friend Mr. Reina, and to his family. It's sad, its seems that lately we are losing the ones that gave us so much enjoyment way too soon and much too often.

Paul Boudreau's picture

I heard the sad news about Renbourn this morning. He was one of my favorite musicians. Fortunately for me, I saw him play twice, once with Bert Jansch, also now gone. I was a big Pentangle fan in my youth and it's all very sad. I also saw Clark Terry in 2000 at an Ellington Centennial concert, which was magical (Louis Bellson played, too). So it goes...

Cobion's picture

I sorry to hear of your personal losses as well as the losses to the audiophile / music community. A wise person once told me you will have two periods of great loss in your life, (if you're lucky enough to not be among them), one will be in your 50's-60's when you will see your mentors, associates, older relatives and buddies pass. The second will be in your 70's-90's when everyone else you knew is gone including your ex wives and old girlfriends. The secret to going on is realizing it's our turn to carry the torch for everything these people have achieved and to pass on the tribal knowledge.....
God be with....

Jenn's picture

I agree; this tidal wave is far too much. John was a personal hero. Mostly I'm a conductor/arts administrator/trombonist, but I'm also a serious fingerstyle guitar gigger/student (student of Laurence Juber). One of the great things about being in the folk guitar scene is the fantastic approachability/friends among the players. John was always so nice to this relative rookie, and helpful as well. He also showed us the way; solo folk guitarists could tour on our own and make a go of it. John and Kottke were pioneers in that way. I miss him already.
Mike, I met Jon Iverson today. Very swell person for a digital guy. ;-)

Daniel Emerson's picture

Last week saw the passing of Jackie Trent, who wrote songs for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Petula Clark and, er, Stoke City Football Club.

ravenacustic's picture

Long time colleague and friend of Clark Terry, Doc Severinson, is still not only alive but kicking as well at the age of about 86. He is still traveling the country and performing. I heard him a few years ago at 83 and he was sounding at 95% of what he always has been. Remarkable.

Michael Fremer's picture
Severinson played the original trumpet piece that opens CBS's "Sunday Morning" show. A few years ago they had Wynton Marsalis re-record it digitally. First of all, I preferred Doc's rendition as well as the sound!
ravenacustic's picture

Who enjoy the longevity of Severinson or who will survive the pressures of a full time performing career. While Marsalis is a wonderful technician able to play in the classical and jazz idiom, Severinson has done it since about 1947. So for Marsalis that means he will have to be playing until about 2060 to equal that career. Rots a ruck!

volvic's picture

I was hoping it was just a rumor but heard that Kirk Bodinet of SOTA passed away a few days ago. A sad day today just got even sadder.

Michael Fremer's picture
Thanks for passing that on....
elliotdrum's picture

Jack Bruce possibly the greatest of all rock bass players
passed away. The first to play lead bass with one of the
great voices in rock. Jack Bruce will be missed. RIP's picture

Of course always loved Doc Severinsen's playing and banter back and forth with Johnny but never owned any of his recordings. A few years ago while crate digging at a Good Will Store I found a copy of his LP titled Tempestuous Trumpet Doc Severinsen and his Orchestra on Command Records RS 819 SD in NM condition. Cleaned it with my VPI record cleaning machine and WOW what a stereo recording, if you find one buy it. It was released in 1961 and is one of those LPs that make your wonder why can't they all sound
this realistic, this engaging and this Tempestous. Again, it you find this album take it home, you will be happy you did.

Michael Fremer's picture
Are all amazing sounding..... many recorded by the great Robert Fine of Mercury Living Presence fame.....
LondonCalling's picture

Sad to learn of the recent loss of Orin Keepnews who contributed so much to the recording of jazz music with many many great releases on the Riverside and Milestone labels. He will be missed.

anomaly7's picture

We are blessed to have been alive and know so many who are now passing away.
Life is wonderful, but it is always punctuated by death at the end, and nothing sucks with more finality than death.
How cool that we can carry our memories of musicians forward by spinning some of their vinyl.

nelsonkiwi's picture

I must mention the passing of one of my favorite bands keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night.

Longplayer33.3's picture

I vaguely recall a scene in Zorba the Greek where, after a tragic loss, the Zorba and his friend get up and join in the dance. In the face of death, we say "yes" to music.

Overboard's picture

Blood,Sweat & Tears trumpeter Lew Soloff, Crickets bassist Joe Maulden, & record producer Kim Fowley

SLS's picture

as I continue in this life, I'll very much miss Bob Reina's music reviews. He is one of THE reasons why I use to subscribe to Stereophile.

Kent T's picture

Too much death, and now Percy Sledge has left us too. We're losing the greats in music and audio too soon. It's sad.

bdbender4's picture

That is truly sad. I also will greatly miss his reviews in Stereophile.

Re. John Renbourn, I was a Pentangle fan. I was lucky enough to hear John Renbourn with Jacqui McShee in the Harvard Chapel a bit later on. Magical!

On the positive side, last Fall I heard Dave Grusin (with Lee Ritenour) in Santa Fe. At 80 (and 63) neither one has lost a step. First set with full string section, second set the coats and ties came off for a really good jazz quartet.

Genna's picture

Hi Michael.  I am Paul's daughter Genna. Thinking about my dad, I decided to google him and I found your blog post. Thank you for the kind words about my dad, they warm my heart. I wonder if you ever decide to dig up your tapes/CDs of the Mondial Sessions if you would be willing to share them with me?

John Atkinson's picture
Genna wrote:
I wonder if you ever decide to dig up your tapes/CDs of the Mondial Sessions if you would be willing to share them with me?

Hi Genna. I played bass guitar on the Mondial recordings and have them ripped to my Roon library. I could share the files with you or burn CD-Rs if you prefer that. Email me at

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile