I woke up at 4:30 this morning. I laid in bed until 4:45, but then just couldn’t take it. I sat up, tired. For just coming off a weekend, I sure wasn’t feeling great. I grabbed my phone, and headed for the bathroom, for the scale, and for my walking gear with the dog. Oh, and for my morning Facebook check in.
And that’s when I got the news Wayne Delano had died unexpectedly.
So much of what Wayne Delano means to me can be found in this one minute clip. Allow me to elabortate.
First, listen to Wayne’s solo. Many serious Jazz players are intent on moving the art form forward. Jazz looks back, yes, but it’s never content; it is always wanting to have the boundaries pushed. Wayne Delano was that kind of player. Harmonically, he was the best midcoast Maine had to offer. His choice of notes was all about pushing, pushing, challenging, changing. Wayne wasn’t going to play a beautiful melody for the sake of nostalgia. Instead he was going to take that melody and flat the ninth and turn it inside out and shove it back in your face, flauntingly asking “How you feel about that Bub? You dig?”
Wayne was also great at pushing my boundaries. He truly made me a better player. He forced me to be. He found out I could read a bit, and so would include me when he wrote a chart. (Yes, Wayne would write his own charts, and even write his own tunes.) He would write a typical melody/chord change chart, and include the drum kicks in specific places he would want me to hit. In the clip, you’ll see I’ve got a music stand. You’d never know when Wayne would pull something out and have you play it right there on the bandstand.
I remember one Friday at work I got a call from Wayne. We would be playing this little pizza/seafood joint that evening. The Elm Street Grille had great pizza, a dedicated Friday night jazz crowd, and you played for food and almost no money. Anyway, Wayne called and said “I feel like playing “Spain” tonight.” I was all like “Oh no you aren’t.” But he did. It really didn’t go well, but he had enough faith in me to at lease give it a try. I can’t tell you how many songs I added to my repertoire through Wayne.
He’d make me play openings too. “OK, let’s play (insert some uptempo song here). Sixteen bars of drums upfront. One, two, one two three four.” And like that, it was up to me to kick the band off.
Aaron Clarke is the son of David Clarke, fellow bandmate with me in the Wayne Delano Quartet. Thanks to Aaron I have this clip I’ve shared. Aaron also said that attending a concert of Wayne’s was like “having a three hour masterclass five feet in front of you.” That’s so true. This clip shows that as well. Wayne would push me to do things I didn’t think I could do. I learned so much playing with him.
Rest in peace, God speed Wayne. I hope I’ll be seeing you again.