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Friday, April 17, 2020

Giuseppi Logan (1935 - 2020)

Giuseppi Logan (photo by Peter Gannushkin)
By Martin Schray

One of the most legendary and mysterious figures in free jazz, saxophonist, clarinetist, pianist and flutist Giuseppi Logan, has passed away. He was famous for releasing two outstanding albums for ESP in the mid-1960s (The Giuseppi Logan Quartet and More). “No one sounded in an ensemble like Giuseppi. (…) He used to pride himself on playing up to the fourth octave on alto. The things that made him different as an improvisor were the way he placed his notes. (…) Giuseppi had his own points of view about music, which is what this music is supposed to be about“, Bill Dixon said about him. Indeed, Mr Logan’s sound could be intensely pervasive, tuneful, angry and disruptive, sometimes he could change his musical moods within seconds. He was definitely supposed to have a great career in front of him. Then however, this gifted and promising musician just disappeared and for decades he became one of jazz’s missing persons. Even to his friends and fellow musicians he was either homeless, locked up or dead. Only when he was in his mid-seventies, he resurfaced by accident.

The reasons why he went away and what happened in the years of his absence are not quite clear. Mr Logan said that he was a drug addict at that time, which is why his wife had put him in a mental institution. His son said that his mother put him and his father on a greyhound to run away from New York. According to Mr Logan he first stayed in a psychiatric hospital in Virginia for three or four years, then he lived on the streets of Norfolk/Virginia. By then he had no instrument and was institutionalised again. It took until 2008 when he was still living with his sister that he was able to buy a saxophone and decided to return to New York trying to get his musical life back. Still, it was tough in New York as well. Mr Logan lived in the streets, busking, just trying to survive. Luckily, the artist Suzannah B. Troy filmed him in his favorite hang-out, Tompkins Square Park, and posted a video on youtube. The Jazz Foundation of America, a nonprofit group that helps musicians, found Mr Logan a place to stay and in a music store he ran into trumpeter Matt Lavelle, who provided him with a saxophone. Josh Rosenthal, who runs a label called Tompkins Square (what a coincidence), had seen a short film of Mr Logan and his son in the park from 1966 and felt that there was something that the world should hear. In February 2010, the label released Mr Logan’s first album in 43 years, The Giuseppi Logan Quintet, with Matt Lavelle (tr, cl), Dave Burrell (p), Francois Grillot (b) and Warren Smith (dr).

What followed were even more albums, The Giuseppi Logan Project (Mad King Edmund, 2012) and … And They Were Cool (Improvising Beings, 2013).

Now Giuseppi Logan has gone for good but his music will remain. The free jazz world and Tompkins Square Park will miss him.

Watch a short sequence of Giuseppi Logan playing at local 269 in 2009:


mike said...

Hmmm, I see nothing online confirming his death. Have you a link?

Ernst Grgo Nebhuth said...

Here's a link:

Sadly also Henry Grimes has died on the same day April 17, 2020.

Paul said...

Thanks Ernst, hope you are doing well.

Mario Selva said...

In the year 1973 I was serving at the Army in Rome. One Sunday in July, early afternoon, while walking near Piazza della Repubblica, I heard a great sound of a tenor sax coming from under the porches. I went near and there was this black man with a light gray beard who had just finished his piece (maybe Village Blues), asking if someone among the listeners had a request. I gave him 500 lire (one day pay as a conscript soldier, a meal at a cheap restaurant costed 1200 lire) and asked him to play Satin Doll. I stayed there for another while, listened to some other pieces, congratulated him and went away.
In December 1980 I was in New York for holidays with a group of colleagues. One late evening, on the 8th Ave, while returning to our hotel on the 59th we heard a great sax player in the entrance hall of a closed shop. We crossed the avenue and there was this black man with a white beard playing "Groovin High" and hitting the upper notes of the tenor with great dexterity, regardless of the cold temperature. I gave him 2 dollars, he thanked me, lighted a cigarette, drank some beer from a can and said he would rest a little. He began talking: "I'm not a bum, there was a bar in Brooklyn who offered me ten thousand dollars if I went to play there for six months. But I prefer to be free, playing when I need and where I want. I went for a tour of Europe that lasted almost ten years: London Paris Berlin..." Have you been in Rome, 1973? Yes. Do you remember that one Sunday ... and you played Satin Doll for me? Yeah, I remember! My friend said "this can't be true", but it was! We hugged each other, and I asked my friend to take a pic of us, but he didn't want to. He resembled a little to Sam Rivers. The following evening he was still there, with a pal playing a snare drum of whom he was not happy: not following his changes. No photos again, we talked a little more of music and musicians. The following evening he was gone, another sax player was there, not even comparable in quality. After some years, when I found out the G.L.had disappeared I thought it could have been him. He was in Europe without telling anyone. Does anybody else remember these facts?

Eselsdistel said...

Henry Grimes and Giuseppi Logan dying on the same day is one of the most unreal coincidences in jazz history... and probably also in history: both men born the same year and in the same city, both being free jazz legends who recorded their best record on the same label and almost on the same year, both disappearing from the scene for decades, both making successful comebacks in the 2000s. Both dying the same day, on the same city, from the same cause. FUCKING HELL. May both of them rest in peace.

Eselsdistel said...

Well, they died two days apart, but hell, the coincidence is still absolutely outlandish to me. The story of any of them alone is already unlikely enough, let them be two, and at the same time coming from the same town... BLYME

FreeJazz Jeff said...

Stranger than fiction!
Is it true that these two enigmatic figures that mirrored each other's paths never played together?

I was "lucky enough" - there it is again - to see Henry play in Guelph, Ontario in 2010 with Marc Ribot and Chad Taylor.
A stoic but magnetic presence.

Anonymous said...

Matt Lavelle wrote a good obit of Giuseppi´s later years,
unavoidable it´s sad but also happy in parts.

Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman in fact died on the same day,
July 30th, 2007.

Jochen B.