It is hard to know how to begin to talk about the recent passing of Trudy Pitts and the ways in which she touched my life in the brief time I got to know her over the last two years, so I will start at the beginning. I am always amazed at how our lives can be orchestrated through coincidence, synchronicity, or divine providence concerning the terms, but the result is the same regardless.
In some casual and unrelated conversations with Pete Fallico and Tony Monaco a couple of years back, I expressed that it would be nice to do an organ summit myself with someone like Trudy Pitts, who at that time was just one of many jazz organists I was listening to and admired.
I had attended summits locally that Tony Monaco hosted with Joey DeFrancesco, Jimmy McGriff, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Gene Ludwig, and they looked like something that would be fun to do.
So this was just a passing thought at this time, something that would be nice if it happened, but nothing more than that, just an idea to keep on the back burner."
In early 2008, I became friends with Joan Cartwright of Women in Jazz South Florida. Her website looked very interesting to me, so I decided to contact her to see what her organization was all about and we started up a nice friendship through emails and phone calls at that time. wijsf.org When I returned from vacation in the summer of 2008, there was an email from Joan asking me if I would like to be part of a call in interview with Trudy Pitts. I remembered the conversations I had with both Pete Fallico and Tony Monaco earlier in the year and really almost couldn't believe what I was reading in Joan's letter.
At this time, I talked to Joan about the idea I had earlier in the year concerning an organ summit and that if Trudy and I hit it off that I would like to present this idea to her.
The amazing thing is none of these discussions I had with these people were related in any way at that time, making it all the more something that I believe was orchestrated from above," if you will. I don't think Joan and I had even discussed Trudy Pitts' music in casual conversation up to that time, maybe in passing, but it was not the focus of any of our conversations.
The interview went on as planned and Trudy and I exchanged contact information at that time and kept in touch on ideas about putting together a show either in Columbus, Philly, or somewhere in between, but nothing really came of it for several months.
I shared the idea with my friend, tenor saxophonist Gene Walker and explained how difficult it was to secure a venue in Columbus concerning the clubs and that maybe this would be something to pursue concerning one of the local colleges instead. Gene had been an instructor at The Ohio State University and presented the idea to Dr. Ted McDaniel, director of Jazz Studies. Gene and I actually met at Ohio State in the 1980s when we were both college students ourselves. I had known of Gene's work, but didn't know him personally until this time. Gene knew Trudy and Mr. C from back in the day" as they say when they played the circuits on the East Coast. Gloria Coleman also was a personal friend of Gene's since the first time he went to New York City and roomed with George and Gloria at that time. Gloria was invited to perform on the summit and it all came together easily when we found this venue through the jazz department at Ohio State and Ted's interest in bringing all of this together.
The summit in April 2009 went on as planned and was a wonderful weekend of sharing music and also getting to know Trudy and Gloria personally and keeping in touch with them after the performance.
Since that time, Trudy and I kept in touch on a personal basis and shared many things, both happy and sad. We both shared August birthdays.
One of the nicest memories I have about that was she called me and sang Happy Birthday" to me over the phone.
We also shared ideas on college teaching as we both were involved in that, too. We just had a lot in common, along with both being married to drummers and working as a married couple.
We both grieved together earlier in the year concerning the passing of Gloria Coleman and Gene Ludwig, and shared our thoughts on spirituality and the sadness of so many B3 players from back in the day" passing at that time.
She wrote wonderful tributes concerning Gloria and Gene and shared these with me in emails.
The depth of her spirituality and peace about these matters is a great comfort to me now. I can liken it to when I lost my grandmother Annis Sherburn on Christmas Day in 1995. She had suffered from stroke complications for several years and in depth conversations were not easy with her any more from the symptoms of her illness. I discussed these things with my grandmother Lili Dauwalder at the time and our thoughts concerning spiritual things. Lili passed in the summer of 1996 and I had peace about her passing a little easier immediately as we had had this conversation, the same as I had with Trudy earlier this year concerning Gloria's and Gene's passing.
I only mention these things as to know Trudy as the entire person, and spirituality was the guiding light in her life. Trudy shared with me that her latest composition project was setting the Psalms to music and she had already finished several of them and a few had been performed.
She shared some health concerns with me earlier this year, but seemed to be able to carry on with business as usual including a trip to California in August to perform on a summit for Pete Fallico's Jazz Organ Fellowship organization. jazzorganfellowship.org I consider myself so fortunate to have known Trudy the past couple of years and wanted to share these thoughts with you on how she touched my life musically, but more importantly as a person. She will be always be remembered for her great musicianship and genuine warmth as a person.