Sunday, May 27, 2012

Remembering Chuck Austin

Ben Opie just posted in Facebook that Pittsburgh trumpeter Chuck Austin passed away Saturday morning at 5 a.m. I'm not sure how old Chuck was, but he had seen a lot of history on the local jazz scene, which included playing with soul singer Lloyd Price after "Personality" became a big hit. Also - he was in a group called The Band years before Robbie Robertson, and this band was remembered in the Teenie Harris exhibit, which featured Chuck in an interview talking about them.

I'm not in a position to give you an accurate obit on Chuck's life. But I did see him play numerous times with Opek, and I interviewed him for a Pulp article about jazz in the city. He was the president of the African-American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh, who worked to ensure that the history of the Black Musicians Union would not be forgotten. He was an absolute gentleman, the type you rarely meet these days, who was always willing to share his history with you, but never let that be where his legacy ended. He was there right up until the end, pushing music forward, blowing Sun Ra with Opek until he couldn't do it anymore. He was a frank speaker, but didn't want to ruffle any feathers. And, if all that isn't cool enough, he used to hang out with Horace Parlan, long before that pianist pulled up his roots in town and left to play with Charles Mingus and to eventually move to Europe.

There were times in recent years that I've gone to Opek shows and wanted to reintroduce myself but Chuck was either already involved in a conversation, or else I just felt too bashful to step up. I wish I could've talked to him more. Knowing what little I do about Chuck, he probably wouldn't have minded.


Ben Opie said...

Chuck was somewhere between 85-87. I once introduced him on stage by saying, "I should live so long, play so well, and be so handsome." He laughed but I stand by it.

PT said...

I miss him terribly already.