These are the remembrances as they ran in the July 2018 print edition of the paper, many other obituaries, and longer obituaries for those listed below, are posted here as soon as the news comes in.
Marilyn “Mimi” Drake Osmun, 91, May 17th in Syracuse, NY. Central New York’s longtime diva of Dixieland, Mimi was born in Syracuse during the height of the Jazz Age. Mimi’s musicality knew no bounds. She played piano, trombone, ukulele, banjolin, and pretty much anything else from which she could coax notes. Some of the ensembles in which she performed were The Rhythm-Airs Big Band with whom she was a charter member, the Coal-Heavers, the Liverpool Community Concert Band, the Vann Harris Quintet, the Doctors’ Big Band, and the Central New York Police and Fire Band. She also led her own combos such as the Tri-County Four (and later Five), and most notably Mimi’s Music Makers which showcased a wide variety of personnel over four melodious decades. During a lengthy run of summers at Sylvan Beach her bands spiced up their performances with comedy routines such as “Kon-Tiki Kapers” and later “Bruno’s Beach House Blackouts.”
In later years, Mimi’s zest for life rarely ebbed. She hosted New Year’s Eve jam sessions at Weber’s Restaurant for many years accompanied by her longtime partner, trumpeter Gabe Harris. She became a member of the Lock 52 Jazz Band. She appeared several times on the main stage at the Northeast Jazz & Wine Festival in Clinton Square playing piano for The Rhythm-Airs.
About 15 years ago, the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse awarded Mimi an honorary lifetime membership in recognition of her personal devotion to Dixieland and to JASS. She wrote a monthly columnfor the JASS Jazfax in which she reviewed concerts and recalled the glory days of Upstate nightlife.
Lorraine Gordon, 95, June 9th, of complications from a stroke. She helped to make jazz happen for over 70 years. In the 40’s she aided her first husband, Alfred Lion, in recording jazz legends for Blue Note Records. Her work for the label became very hands on when soon after their marriage he was drafted into the war. She is credited with discovering Thelonious Monk and advocating for him to be recorded.
She went on to marry Max Gordon who owned the already legendary Village Vanguard. Under their stewardship the club became an iconic hub of jazz in New York City, made more famous by the many live albums recorded there. In 1989 she began to operate the Village Vanguard in the wake of her husbands death, closing for only one night.
She was known as a disciplined manager, involved with the daily rhythms of the club. It was in this role she became a fixture of the neighborhood and a quintessentially New York figure. She resisted many efforts to buy her out or even to franchise the club. She is thought to have made arrangements for her daughter Deborah to assume management responsibilities.
In 2006 she published the memoir Alive at the Village Vanguard: My Life In and Out of Jazz Time which garnered her awards and accolades. Her lifetime of commitment to jazz was recognized in 2013 with a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award.
Jim Roberson, June 4, of pulmonary thrombosis, in California. He loved and played music for over sixty years, most recently with Dr. Bach and the Jazz Practitioners, and at monthly Jazz Sunday meetings of the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society. He began playing in the casinos of Reno and Lake Tahoe in the early sixties. He appeared with many great musicians including Stan Kenton, Johnny Richards, Ben Tucker and Bob Ringwald. In South Carolina he served on the boards of the Hilton Head Jazz Society, and the Dixieland Jazz Society of the Low Country.
After a return to his native California he became a prominent member of the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society and served as its President from 2008-2010. He has since been treasurer of the society utilizing his experience as a California Certified Public Accountant. He was a member of the Sacramento Jazz Education Foundation Board.
Collette Black, 63, on June 5th, of breast cancer. She was a force in the New York City Cabaret community. Recently she taught Exploring Cabaret courses at the 92nd Street YMCA and presented shows at 53 Above in Times Square. She directed or supported several Off Broadway productions including, Take It Easy, What in the World? The Newsical Review, Our Life and Times, and Unfinished Business…a Love Story. She served as artistic director for Upstairs at Rose’s Turn in Greenwich Village, a highly esteemed piano bar first opened in the early ’50s. Her work was also seen at The Judith Anderson Theatre, The John Houseman Theatre and Caroline’s on Broadway. As a teacher she spread understanding and love of the possibilities of Cabaret.
She received many awards for her work including The Nightlife Award, The Backstage Bistro Award, and The MAC award from the Manhattan Association of Cabaret. She was nominated for the 2018 MAC award for technical directing for her work on various shows at the popular cabaret theater Don’t Tell Mama.
Dick Serocki, 60, May 13th, of cancer, in Bellport, NY. While in California he played banjo at festivals with The South Burgundy Street Jazz Band, and played often with the Cherry Willow Jazz Band. After a move to Upstate New York in 2015 he was diagnosed with cancer but continued to play locally and become civically engaged on local issues. He performed solo at the National Jazz Banjo Festival in Guthrie, OK, and appeared for 17 years at Rancheros Visitadores Cowboy Ride. He played with the San Fernando Valley Banjo Band, San Gabriel Valley Banjo Band, and Ragtime Banjo Band. He was recently a sideman for the Smith Street Society Jazz Band and gigged with the Isotope Stompers Jazz Band. He will be remembered for his excellent sense of humor. On his website he noted that on August 23, 1964 he appeared on The Original Amateur Hour TV show and received “a most esteemed compliment” from Ted Mack, “Dick, you’re a real amateur.”
Ken Ebert, 81, May 30th in Corona, California, while recuperating from a fall. A vibraphone and piano player who played with numerous groups, including the Blackwood Jazz Combo. He appeared for many years at the Mal Sands LA Vibes Summit. He was deeply involved in his local jazz scene and was a past board member of the Society for the Preservation of Dixieland Jazz. A New Orleans style memorial is planned for October that will include music from the Royale Garden Jazz Band.