Thursday, June 5, 2008

Time After Time: Ed Fenner's Life Remembered

We should all be so lucky.

Ed Fenner's memorial service Monday night at the Gem Theater was a warm and moving tribute to a man's life and passions. The eulogies- both spoken and musical- were memorable. Fenner died May 18.

In his gracious opening comments Gregory Carroll, Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum, called the service "a celebration and jazz jam."

"It was all about the jazz with Ed," Carroll noted.

"I call for the Kansas City jazz community to come together," he added.

For one night at least, they did. While there were never more than about 100 people inside the Gem, the guest registry contained a far greater number of names. Many left warm comments about Fenner. The speakers did likewise.

Bill Clause of KKFI spoke of Fenner's "discerning spirit and generous soul."

"He knew jazz in Kansas City wouldn't succeed unless people knew about it," Dr. William Eddy of UMKC's Jazz Friends said. "So he proceeded to let people know about it."

"He was dedicated to bringing the jazz community together, "Roger Atkinson of JAM magazine added. "It was his life."

Members of Fenner's family provided some of the night's most revealing moments. They even sung a rendition of a bawdy saloon song Fenner favored in his youth.

Younger brother Richard Fenner acknowledged that while some found Fenner "refreshingly honest," others considered him "brazenly blunt."

"I was probably the only five-year-old in Malibu, California, who knew how to mix a Manhattan," his daughter joked.

Many of Kansas City's top musicians participated in the service. They included Carroll, Millie Edwards, Greg Mize, Don Van Fleet, Micah Herman, Bobby Watson, Loren Pickford, Everette DeVan, Eboni Fondren, Kevin Cerovich and Ryan Lee.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)

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