Longtime Cincinnati artist/musician Jack Walker passed away on July 20. He was 67. Walker was a visual artist, poet and multi-talented musician, best known for his saxophone and flute playing. Walker had been a part of the area’s progressive Jazz scene for decades, performing with groups like The Healing System, The Last Boppers and Jazz Renaissance Band, among others.
Walker was also a founding member of IsWhat?!, the globally acclaimed project fronted by MC/beat-box master Napoleon Maddox. The group — which has toured internationally for many years and features a revolving lineup of musicians — is known for its creative melding of genres, specifically Hip Hop and Jazz. Maddox and Walker’s mutual open-mindedness about music, art and creativity made them perfect partners. In 2013, CityBeat’s Brian Baker interviewed the pair and, when asked about bringing together Jazz and Hip Hop (something they undoubtedly had been asked many times), Walker’s answer showed his drive for creativity in whatever form it takes.
“Music is music,” Walker said. “I travel all kinds of genres. Jazz cats will ask me, ‘Why doesn’t this fit with that?’ And I say, ‘It does fit with that. It’s creativity. You’ve got to make it work.’ In my mind, it shouldn’t be a problem. If cats can’t make it work, I back off, you know?”
After his passing, Maddox contacted several artists and colleagues that have crossed paths with Walker over the years, collecting quotes from many of them that relayed their respect, love and appreciation for the late artist. New York-based cornetist/trumpeter/composer Graham Haynes (son of Jazz drumming great Roy Haynes) says he played with Walker not too long ago and found it “uncanny” how well they played together without having met previously.
“He had a great soulful sound on the tenor (sax) and he was a warm person as well,” Haynes says. “I’m very sorry to hear about his passing; we’ve lost a great master.”
Renowned Free Jazz drummer Hamid Drake, who has collaborated with IsWhat?!, said he was first struck by Walker’s look, “the way he carried himself with a humble dignity” and his “deep, elegant” speaking voice. Once he heard Walker play, Drake says, “everything that I had sensed and thought about Jack was confirmed, perhaps even more. I immediately felt I was with one of (the) ‘Gate Keepers of the Great Tradition,’ as the late, great saxophonist Yusef Lateef called it.”
Cincinnati Hip Hop artist/producer Brian Greer, another IsWhat?! collaborator, says, “There is no voice like Jack Walker’s, and that voice has fallen silent now, but his vision and his work remain. Jack spoke with the notes of his horns and we listened to his soul float effortlessly from his lungs.”
On Aug. 16 at 2 p.m., there will be a special celebration of Walker’s life, art and music at The Greenwich (2442 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills, the-greenwich.com). A communal potluck meal will be shared at the event, and there is a suggested donation of $5 (if you bring a dish) or $10 (if you don’t). Money raised will be used to help Walker’s family with medical and funeral costs.
There are more comments from peers and info on Walker’s legacy at iswhatonline.blogspot.com.
Food, Booze and Roots Music Fest Rescheduled
CityBeat’s Porkopolis Pig & Whiskey Festival was originally scheduled for a late June date, but bad weather caused it to be rescheduled for this Saturday. The free, all-day affair (11 a.m.-9 p.m.) takes place at the Horseshoe Casino’s outdoor concert space The Shoe (1000 Broadway St., Pendleton, horseshoecincinnati.com) and features food options from local barbecue restaurants and over 40 types of bourbon, scotch and whiskey to sample.
But even if you’re a sober vegan who happens to love Americana/Roots music, you should definitely put the event on your “to do” list. Along with the food and booze, there will be performances by some of the Cincy area’s best Folk/Americana acts, including Young Heirlooms, Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound, Magnolia Mountain, Willow Tree Carolers, Robert Lowell Ford, Jeremy David Pinnell and Moriah Lawson. Nashville’s popular Swear and Shake cap the show off with a special performance at 8 p.m.
Find more info at citybeat.com.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected]