My involvement with this page started around the fall of 2008 when I was
introduced to Dr. Nelson Harrison through Joan Cartwright of Women in
Jazz South FLA through an interview she did with Trudy Pitts and me at
At the time, I also had been trying to find a time to come to Pittsburgh to take a lesson with Gene for a couple of years after a bit of email correspondence with him and Pattye and then finally meeting them in Columbus when Gene and Tony Monaco did a B3 summit together.
I learned a lot from Gene musically through his recordings, seeing him live the few times I did, and finally getting to have some instruction from him. His lessons were not only on the notes, but the unspoken lessons of how to live a life of character in this business of making music and in general.
The recent passing of Gene Ludwig has brought so many thoughts to mind in the last few days.
In this crazy business of making music, I have met some people who
touched my life in many ways through their great playing of music, love
of the B3 genre, and warm character when I have gotten to know them on a
First of all, Tony Monaco and Pete Fallico, who have been a great help
to me to get me to this point as a B3 player with studies, promotional
support, and all the things that are needed to make a go of it. Recently
Trudy Pitts and Jim Alfredson, both of whom I have played with on organ
summits, and Bobby Floyd who I will sub for on occasion here in town.
Tenor saxophonist Gene Walker, my friend and bandmate, who I gig with
often here in town and a walking history book of all things jazz and all
things B3 as he played with so many of these people over the years.
Hammond tech Sal Azzarelli, who has repaired all of my Hammonds to
artist quality instruments, some that many techs would have given up on.
So many though, have passed.
Dave Wheeler, the musical genius, unsung hero and mentor for so many of
us here in Columbus was the first. I studied piano and composition with
Dave in college and then later in the 90's until his passing in 2008. In
Dave's last years, he became good friends with Cary and I. When he
passed it was like losing a family member. I felt orphaned as a musician
when he passed and still do as Dave was a walking encyclopedia who
could solve just about any musical problem in concrete ways even over
the phone as his knowledge was so deep and his teaching skills were so
perfected. Dave never played the B3, but played tenor on many B3 dates
with various people including Don Patterson.
On the B3, the first was Hank Marr, who I studied with when I was a
college student. Most of my studies were on piano with Hank, but once in
awhile he had his B3 at the college and shared his knowledge with me on
that instrument. At the time, I had a Hammond at my parents' house, but
was not playing this instrument publicly. He pointed me in the right
directions on the jazz style of playing the instrument. Hank and I
stayed in touch after college and Cary and I went to see him play many
times. I could always pick up the phone to chat with Hank and miss him
very much. When I was asked to play for the annual Hot Times jam with
saxophonist Gene Walker the summer after Hank's passing, I knew I could
never fill his shoes, but the Hot Times community accepted me in this
role and it has been a yearly tradition that I look forward to.
After Hank's passing, I was looking for another "old school" player to
get some advice from but I really wasn't sure who to contact. A bunch of
circumstances and sequence of events came into play starting with a
gentleman from Pittsburgh who came to visit his daughter in town and
came to one of my gigs in 2004, the summer after Hank Marr had passed.
He came to the stage to ask some questions about our music when we were
setting up. He told me he was from Pittsburgh and I said "Oh, Gene
Ludwig town!" He told me "I know you can play that instrument before
hearing you play anything, just because you know about Gene's work." I
told him I only knew of Gene's recordings and enjoyed them and that I
need to get to Pittsburgh to hear him play.
A post Jeff Rosenthal posted on the organ-ized list about his
studies with Gene got me to thinking about that. I didn't know that he
offered lessons on an informal basis from time to time and I had not
seen him play live up to that point.
I made a note of that and when Jesse Fankushen came to town to film Tony
Monaco and me for his graduate film project, "First Gravy", Jesse
shared with me that he had just spent a few days with Gene and Pattye,
filming him and how much he enjoyed his stay.
Later Tony Monaco and Gene did an organ summit here in town where I
first met Gene and Pattye, although we had been in touch often by email
prior to that point.
They both were very warm and embracing. I was there to hear the concert,
but also for the dedication of Hank Marr's memorial display at the King
Arts Center that I had provided some recorded music for.
I gave Gene one of my CDs and went to pull out some money to buy his and
he just gave me one of his. Just one of many examples of what a
generous man he was.
Finally I was able to make the trip to Pittsburgh in November of 2008
where I spent the entire weekend with the Ludwigs. It was a great time
musically and socially as Gene and Pattye are what I call "real folks".
It was amazing to listen to Gene's stories about all the things he had
done and was doing.
One of the things he told me that I never forgot was "We all bring
different things to the table playing this instrument." I took that as
him saying all our contributions to B3 playing are significant, even
though we are not all clones of each other. He had me sit in for a
couple of numbers for his concert with the Pittsburgh Jazz Society.
I last saw him play in Detroit last fall where he invited me and Cary to
sit in for a couple of numbers, too. I never asked to sit in either
time and was honored to be asked to do this.
I am saddened at Gene Ludwig's passing, but in all the obits and
tributes I have read, everyone says similar things about him as this is
how he was, a generous, approachable friendly man, in addition to being
one of the giants of the old school of B3 playing which he stayed true
to his entire life.
Just wanted to share some things about this as I am grateful that my life has been orchestrated to meet all these fine people.