This is an open-ended blog ranging from news about my latest gigs and publications
to ruminations about politics, world affairs, culture and whatever piques my interest—or ire.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

BOB GREENE, 1922-2013

I was saddened to learn that my friend, pianist and writer Bob Greene, passed away on October 13. Bob was a specialist on the music of Jelly Roll Morton, a lover of traditional jazz and New Orleans culture, and a world traveler with friends all over the globe. I first met him at Preservation Hall in the mid 1960's when he came down for a visit while working as a writer for Voice of America. He sat in with the band and I played with him on a couple of jam sessions. I was a young teenager then and he was in his mid-40s, but we hit it off right away. On a subsequent visit he treated me to a memorable round of oysters at the Desire café on Bourbon Street; I think we went through three dozen apiece. Years later, when I lived in New York, Bob and I teamed up to form a regular Tuesday night quartet at the Cajun Bar and Restaurant on 16th street. We would also meet up for dinners at PJ Clark's from time to time. When I was assigned to Paris as a TIME correspondent in the 1990's, Bob visited our house and filled it with his music, his infectious laughter, and his stories, all fuelled by gin and tonics that he liked on the stiff side.
I lost touch with him for a few years—there were some ruffled feelings over my failure to acknowledge a book he had sent me—but we patched it up two years ago when he invited me to play with him, Sammy Rimington, and Stanley King at a "History of Jazz" show he wrote and performed at Preservation Hall. We had a nice reunion over lunch at Manale's on Napoleon Avenue, reminisced, and promised to reprise the show the following year. He never made it back to New Orleans. He developed a serious heart problem and underwent surgery for an experimental heart valve replacement. The operation was successful, but he was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year.The doctors gave him between 6 months and a year to live. He made 9 months.
My personal memories of Bob aside, he led a remarkable life as a writer and musician. In the early 60s he worked as a speech writer for the State Department, where he had occasion to encounter President John F. Kennedy. Several years later, he worked with Edward R. Murrow for the Voice of America. He spent many years working on a biography of his uncle Paul Blum, a founder of the OSS, precursor of the C.I.A. ( As a pianist, he worked with many of the best known musicians on the New York scene, recorded at Preservation Hall with trombonist Jim Robinson, and for a number of years toured with a show he wrote and directed called "The World of Jelly Roll Morton."
Bob was a larger-than-life character who touched the lives of many people around the world. I am happy to have known him. And I will miss him.

[A nice interview/profile with Bob appeared on the Sag Harbor Express blog in 2011:]


  1. R.I.P. Bob Green
    Stefan, tradjazzfan from Slovakia

  2. "When I come to the end of my journey" - R.I.P.

    Stefan and tradjazzbands from Slovakia