R.I.P., Mr. Bendzsa

I received word this afternoon: Paul has passed away.

I’ve been dreading and expecting this all week.  And I still can’t believe it.

As I’m processing this, I’ve been checking out some of his music where I can find it online.  (As I write this I’m enjoying some improvisations he recorded with Michael Venart and company).

One of his main projects I’ve admired in recent years has been his duo with Rob Power, called Spanner.  There’s info on Rob’s site about their eponymous 2006 album, as well as Dark Boat (2009).  I highly recommend this music.

You can hear him on YouTube playing a piece called Nautilus for clarinet and electronics by David Keane.

On a note closer to home, here’s a touching home-made video of Paul on soprano saxophone and his son Nick on guitar playing an original song called “Apple Cider.”

My heart goes out to his family.

 

Paul Bendzsa

I received some devastating news yesterday evening:  Paul Bendzsa, mentor and friend,  was in palliative care and taken off life support.  A young, exuberant 76-year-old, who belied his age by decades, and whom I figured would live to be 100+, now only has hours left.

While on some “objective” level it might be exaggerating to say, I believe the path to the individual I’ve ultimately become began the day I stepped into Paul’s office at the MUN School of Music for my first saxophone lesson with him.  People for whom the label “Musician” refers to their core identity, will know what I mean. I didn’t start to become a Musician until I began working with Paul and I wouldn’t be the musician I am – especially one for whom improvisation plays a central role – without Paul Bendzsa. It was January 1993 and I wasn’t yet 20 years old – and still a business major, for crying out loud! – and all that mattered before that day would matter less and less as Paul coached me over the next several years into the creative spirit that I am today.

I think we worked on an Arthur Frackenpohl piece called “Air for Alto” on that first day.  I remember him devising a 5- or 6- note phrase, although I don’t remember the exact words, that would help me relate to how to play the opening sequence. And although it would be a struggle for months, he got me out of the bad playing (tone production) habits I’d developed up to that point.  Over the years, people have complimented me on my saxophone tone and Bendsza deserves at least half the credit.

He subsequently mentored me through solo recitals, chamber music and jazz band concerts.  We had an extra-curricular improvisation group “Shades of Orange” in my graduating year.  On top of all that were the laughs and the hugs.

Not enough will ever be said about this man and his impact on the music community of St. John’s, NL.  I know my friends (and fellow players) like Greg Bruce, Susan Evoy and Chris Harnett all feel the same way.

Where would we be without Paul Bendzsa?

We all loved him like family.  And it’s impossible to put into words how much we appreciated him and how much we will miss him.

paul bendzsa

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more info:

Paul’s 2018 Sound Symposium bio

Paul’s profile at the Canadian Music Centre

Samba Elegua, October PSK

Another event at the last Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington (PSK) was a performance by Samba Elegua, of which I’m a member – since August I’ve been in good standing after a near-total absence since the fall of 2017 (wink, wink to Samba Elegua members).  We played along Augusta Ave from 6:00 to 6:30pm: samba, dancehall, funk and samba-reggae, all to our hearts’ delight.

I love this band. I love the people in it and I love the vibe.  As our website states, Samba Elégua is “a non-profit, volunteer-run musical community, powered by the passion of its members. It is free to join and open to all, from novices to experienced players.”

Notice this last bit.  WE NEED MORE MEMBERS!!!  Especially, we need caixa players.  (caixa is a Brazilian snare drum).  There were only two of us at the last performance and, as loud and as passionate as we are, two of us can’t keep up with the pounding of the big surdos, who typically lay down the beats behind us, and the thrilling, melodic clatter and clanging  of the the tamborims and agogo bells ahead of us.

Here’s a picture – taken by my buddy-in-brass-bands, trumpeter Gerry Bortolussi – of us milling about before we get set to play.  Some are into the cat-themed, Halloween spirit; I’m not sure about myself, whom you can see to the right all dressed in black and decked out in hat and shades.

SambaElegua-PSK-Oct2019