This is not the way anyone in the Jazz world thought that the New Year would begin.
I’m sitting here in Tucson Int’l Airport and it’s taking me a lot of strength to keep it together. I knew he was bad off, I knew it was terminal, but no way could anyone have imagined that it would have been this soon.
Jammin’ In Jamaica, 2009… This guy gets up and absolutely shreds it on guitar, and while I knew who he was, I didn’t expect to hear snarling power blues of that caliber at a jazz event. And the next day, at a Q&A, he runs in late in blue flannel pajamas, in an exuberant “I’m here!!!” gesture, and it’s not possible to look at him without a smile. And that was Jeff Golub. The guy who could bring any guitar fan to their knees, and make you laugh in the next second.
Really, there is no one like Jeff, no one with his style, his smile, and his very New Yorker sense of humor. You listen to Avenue Blue and there’s no mistaking his sound. You’ll remember it until the last, you will always know it there on in. Contemporary jazz with oldschool blues, and anything but smooth. Jeff is grit, pure grit.
The last time I saw him was Smooth Jazz for Scholars 2013. One of his last shows. He was already without sight for a while, but he mastered Braille and he could still play with the best of them. But I hugged him and it felt vastly different from Jamaica. He had lost weight to an alarming degree. My friend Kelly and I stayed with him through breakfast, got him back to his room, and all I could think of was, what was happening to our Jeff?
He’s family. All of us contemporary jazz folks are family. The photogs, radio people, artists – we are all a huge, close-knit family. Jeff is One Of Our Own. This is a loss that we will continue to feel on the Jazz cruises, at the festivals, at the events where he was a staple, when we go and see our mutual friends… This is a void that we will continue to feel when we hear Boom Boom on the radio or in shuffle mode on the music players. This is a pain that we will continue to feel for a while to come.
Like so many, I’m glad for having met him, for having photographed him, for having enjoyed his energy in live show, for having known him. I’m glad to have gotten a glimpse into his spirit from both his music and watching him take his condition head-on. May we all have the courage that Jeff showed us.
Rest well, dear friend. We love you. We miss you. Say hi to George Duke and Ricky Lawson for us at the big jam session up in the sky.