I was very sad to wake to the news that Mark Colby had passed. Many of us knew he had been sick and home in hospice the past weeks, but I was so shocked at how quickly things turned for him. I watched his streaming performance in June!
I first met Mark when I was in school. I never had the opportunity to study with him – he taught at DePaul and I went to Northern Illinois – but he was a guest lecturer in our music business class one semester. I remember him playing and being a very positive, encouraging presence.
Once I joined the Navy Bands, I left Chicago for many years…Mark popped back into my orbit with the release of his “Speaking of Stan” record. It got significant airplay in Norfolk Virginia where I was living at the time. I corresponded with Mark on and off after that – mostly “fan-like-letters” with occasional questions. He was always very gracious, even once asking me for a lead sheet to one of my tunes saying “This is my kind of tune!” Needless to say I was quite flattered!
When I moved back to Chicago, Mark was one of the first cats I reconnected with. He was, again, very gracious. He invited me to join him for sets at Catch 35 and The Jazz Showcase as well as giving me some sub work. The times I spent playing next to him AND the time spent in the hang were lessons that I’ll never forget.
My friend Ryan Miller said in a Facebook comment: “Mark was such a heavy musician, and an even greater person. The real deal.
His biggest talent in my eyes was his ability to make YOU feel like the real deal when you were around him. We all felt it. Extraordinary.” Ryan got this exactly right. When you were with Mark, you were the most important person in the world to him. You were never made to feel like a pest, or a bother. Never made to feel like you weren’t a friend and colleague.
I’m regretting not spending more time with him, but I suspect I’d be regretting that regardless of how much time I spent with him.
Safe travels and rest well, Mark. You were the best of us and we will mourn your absence for a long, long time.