Thought I would stop this thread from sinking into the abyss so soon. My girlfriend used to interview Jeff all the time for her radioshow back in the day. Before the limelight swept him up, he used to come to town about 3 times a year because his drummer was a hometown boy and his girlfriend lived among us. We were lucky enough the get the VIP treatment, but it was the early days, so that meant just hanging offstage after the show. Anyone who knew Jeff will probably tell you he had time for everyone. He never took himself all that seriously and took his fame with a grain of salt. He might have shared the stage with all the greats of his time, but he also had a higher calling. He loved old jazz and swing and that is really where he rocked the house. He was a monster player when it came to that style of old time music. After the limelight was done with him, he would host musicians on the stage of his own club and there was usually something fabulous going on. He also hosted his own radio show where he played all of his favorite records from his wicked collection of old records from a by-gone era. He was also a trumpet player aside from being a monster guitar player. I saw Jeff about eight months before he died after a show and got to share a few laughs with him. He was sick then but still determined to ring every ounce out of his life before the final call up. Cancer took his eyes and eventually his life, but that is all it took. Great guy!!! Very inspiring!!!
Thanks for sharing, cwittler; I was going to post some similar info about Healey's interest in jazz and his collection of old records (I swear I read somewhere he had one of, if not the largest, collection in the entire world at one point -- yet loved sharing them rather than hording them like most collectors).
I've been a fan since the late-80s but don't listen to Jeff's stuff as much as I should anymore. Still, I've always found him inspiring. I never got to see him live, but I've enjoyed a lot of the clips of him -- I really love watching him get into what he is playing, the guy just seemed to really be in the moment and was a great entertainer.
Someone locally here in Toronto (where Jeff was based) was selling an (authenticated) old Hiwatt rig of Jeff's for quite a reasonable price. I caught the ad almost as soon as it was posted, but sadly, the amp and cab sold within about 30min. I would have loved to have had such a piece from one of my favorite players.
The first time I saw Jeff was at the Montreal Jazz Festival. But he was not part of the festival mind you... I was going to see a complete unknown to ma at the time, Sonny Landreth, at the blues stage. I forgot the year but it was a long time ago. The stage was set at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Jeanne-Mance. There was a Jazz Beer stand right there so I bought myself a Beer and was waiting for the show to start.
There was a guy sitting on a plastic soda crate on the sidewalk not far from me setting up his amp and guitar with the help of a couple friends. I remember I taught to myself: poor guy... Ho well and turned around to face the stage.
Then he started to play... the sound was horrible but boy could he jam! People started to turn around to look at who the hell was playing this good and in no time there was a huge crowd around Jeff cheering and applauding! It was a blast. He ended his set just before Mr. Landreth got on stage. What a great night it was. Sonny gave a hell of a show as well.
A couple of months later I saw him on TV and, like they say, the rest is history