Death of a Jazzman

Around the new millennium, this city was blessed with an amazing jazz scene. Fueled primarily, but not exclusively, by a crop of young and creative musicians out of the University Jazz Studies program, combined with a revived popular appreciation of the genre, jazz became the hot music around town.  In clubs like the Zanzibar, Monk's House of Jazz, the Urban Lounge, and others, these musicians formed a floating series of combos, and eventually a big band, to bring an exciting brand of jazz to its new and old fans.  I was lucky enough to see, hear, and even record much of this music.

One musician in particular formed the backbone of many groups, the bassist Will Lovell III.  He had the power, creativity, and especially the sensitivity to drive or to follow the other players as they propelled the music forward.  Out of all the groups who performed during this era, perhaps the award winning combo John Henry and the big band SLAJO (Salt Lake Alternative Orchestra) were the most famous.

After about 10 years, this amazing local jazz scene slowly dissolved, as the musicians began leaving for advanced degrees elsewhere, and to seek fame and fortune in larger cities.   Lovell himself, while playing and touring in country and rockabilly groups as well as jazz combos, would get his degree and move to Los Angeles.  While there, one of his gigs was with Willis Clow in the guitar ensemble Wirechoir.

Lovell also began playing on cruise ships.  And, unfortunately, this is where he met his end.  We've just heard that Will Lovell drowned in a swimming accident while off a cruise ship in the Caribbean.  This is a tremendous loss to all of us who knew him and enjoyed his music.  I'll always appreciate the times I spent with him, drinking wine after a recording session at Joanne's new modern, or the afternoon at the first USC-Utah meeting in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Below are links to a couple tunes I recorded that feature Will Lovell.  The first is from his Senior Recital, the second is from his group One-Fifty-One at the Zanzibar.

For more pics and music, please check out the SLAJO web site, and note the links to John Henry as well as the New Improvised Music Festival where Lovell played in the trio Friendly Robot.

A great musician, a great guy...  he will be missed.


Anonymous said...

I was at the RIU Resort that day and witnessed some of what happened. I didn't see Will being pulled from the water but witnessed the frantic scene to bring him back. This lasted about 40 minutes or so with several lifeguards attempting CPR. The rip currents were very bad that day as they often are in that area from what I hear as well as large waves. I probably don't have any new information for you regarding Wills tragic death but I have felt compelled to learn as much about the mans life that I witnessed come to an end and am very happy to have found this short Bio. I intend on listening to his music. In a weird way putting a name with the face and seeing how he lived is some closure for me. I am terribly sorry for your loss and wish I could have done something to have helped save Will.

dramasoul said...

I am Will's girlfriend, Shannon. Thank you for your comments. Will's family and I have so many questions about that day, although I know there's probably little to be said that hasn't already been said. Please feel free to contact me at https://www.facebook.com/shannon.kerstetter , or dramasoul@hotmail.com

Troy Lennerd Nielsen (Kakuon) said...

I played often with Will. I am very saddened by this news, it's a shock. I was caught in a rip tide once and nearly drowned myself. My heart goes out to Will, his family, Shannon and friends.

George Marie said...

Thank you for sharing these audio clips and photos. Will was in my theory ped class at the U. One of the many things I admired about Will was his total integrity as a musician and human being.

There was one day I ran into Will in the hallway. He had a bass part that looked like, well, not jazz. I was curious and asked him about it. It turned out he was helping the New Music Ensemble out. Will also played in orchestra, too. How awesome is that?

I feel bad that I haven't seen Will for a few years. He always had something positive, supportive, and uplifting, and well, insightful to say about life and about music.

My heart and thoughts go out to everyone who was close to Will.

Anonymous said...

Shannon, again I am so sorry for your loss. I am sure you have questions about that days events and I wish I had more answers but didn't see much more than the lifeguards attempting to save Will on the beach. I have listened to his music and was touched by his talent. I will forever remember him and his music as I feel in some way he and I are linked. I wish you and Will's family the best moving forward during this difficult time.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for this, Shannon...Will and i just met last year through Willis, but we became fast friends and were keeping in touch through Facebook about hanging out more as soon as he got back. It devastates me to think that we won't be able to now, and i'm so sorry for you and his family. He was such a great spirit that made a huge impact on me even in the short time we knew each other. I'm sure i speak for MANY people when i say i will miss him terribly. My thoughts are with you all...