With all the energy put, sadly, toward marking the loss of musicians in the jazz world, it's rare that we stop to remember someone who was in the audience, someone for whom those musicians are doing their work to begin with. But then, it's rare that there's someone in the audience like Irving Stone.
Stone embraced Dixie and bop in the 1940s, and saw jazz and improvised music through decades of fashions and trends, sometimes nudging it a little along the way, for six decades. He was remembered during an 11-hour tribute at Tonic on July 5, 2003 organized by poet Steve Dalachinsky and saxophonist/composer John Zorn. The day featured hours of music, as well as people speaking about the man whose love for the community might have been obscured from those who didn't know him by marijuana smoke and a sailor's mouth. But more than that, as he was prone to say, he was "always looking for the perfect solo."
He quietly supported the music he loved, taking a short stint at managing Ornette Coleman and offering financial support to small labels and venues. He taught Harry Partch how to balance his checkbook, could sing Gilbert and Sullivan numbers in the style of Louis Armstrong and had a great bullshit detector. But he rarely spoke about such matters. He was, more than anything, a listener, and with Stephanie, his wife of 28 years, was a fixture at New York's new music clubs.
"Just like there's an art of playing music, here's an art of listening," poet and painter Yoko Otomo remembered. "There are certain principles of how to listen that he taught me. He said, 'You don't have to go to good music. Good music will come to you.'"
Good music did, indeed, come to him.
"There was something about coming home to a New York gig and the Stones were there," saxophonist Ned Rothenberg said during the tribute. "It might be great to play in Paris, but the Stones weren't there. He was the ideal listener that we all crave."
Like any dedicated fanatic, when he wasn't at a show, he was sitting by the stereo in his Brooklyn apartment.
"The way he would listen at home, he'd sit on the edge of the bed with the TV on and the sound off," Stephanie Stone said. "I'd go in to say something and he'd shut the stereo off, listen to me, talk to me and then when I left turn the stereo back on."
What matters most, of course, is the music, and a packed room was there to receive the audio testimonies of New York's wealth of players, including Susie Ibarra, Marty Ehrlich, Charles Gayle, Chris Speed, Roy Campbell, Shelley Hirsch, Tim Berne, Angie Sanchez, Tom Rainey, Tony Malaby, Sylvie Courvoisier, Ikue Mori, Steven Bernstein, Butch Morris, Oscar Noriega and others. Money taken at the door, as well as proceeds from a forthcoming cd of performances from the day to be released by Tzadik, will go to form a foundation to support musicians, and to be administered by Mrs. Stone.
That foundation will serve to continue Stone's dedication, but he will still be missed by scores of New Yorkers. A chair should remain empty at Tonic, Roulette and the Knitting Factory for a year in his memory - although Stone would no doubt think it stupid not to let someone else sit down.
As one sleeps,
- Yuko Otomo
The sound of another leaving
Donations to the foundation being set up in Irving Stone’s name can be
61 Fourth Avenue, pmb 126
New York, New York 10003, USA
Checks should be made payable to Hips Road, with “Stone Trust” in the