One by One
As I write this message – I am listening to Coltrane; which I often do when I need to dig deep into myself and hold on tight to the sprit that lives within me – one of my very favorite Coltrane tunes is playing – “Welcome” – a song that is based on the song Happy Birthday and a song that my brother Paul and myself shared many many times in the past along with a multitude of the best in jazz, R&B, soul, and funk and dance music (as we used to call it) – but in our family almost anything with a good beat and groove could be considered Dance Music!
When I left my home in southern California to head to the airport to fly to Minneapolis for my brother Paul’s memorial ceremony activities this past weekend, the first thing I did upon getting in my car was to put on a Coltrane classic - Exodus – which I listened to over and over again as I headed to the airport in California, and continued to do as soon as I got out of the Minneapolis airport to head to downtown St. Paul where my family and I would be staying.
In honor of my brother Paul, I had started personal and private Coltrane vigil that had been going on for the past several weeks beginning immediately after I had learned that Paul had become gravely ill and was in a coma-like state in a VA hospital in Minneapolis – surely listening to nothing but Coltrane would help – it had helped both Paul and myself out so many times in the past. But it had not worked - just as I was preparing myself to travel to Minnesota to see my brother in the hospital and hopefully help him back to health – I received a late night call (early Monday morning, October 19 – approximately 2:30 AM Minnesota time) from my older brother Pete, with whom (my mother would be very happy that I used the word whom – she always insisted that we use proper grammar) I had been keeping close contact over the last several days regarding our brother Paul’s grave situation.
The call from Pete was to inform me that our brother Paul had passed away in VA hospital. Please understand that we had become pseudo veterans of this type of thing over the years. You see, my brother Pete and I used to both live in Tampa, Florida; he is still there. Pete had married a girl from Tampa and they moved down to Florida in 1970. A few years later, in 1973, I also moved to Tampa to go to college at the University of South Florida and study chemical engineering. I live in San Juan Capistrano, in southern California now but had lived in Tampa for 29 years prior to that and over those many years – Pete and I had learned the hard way through the difficulty of our parents (first our Dad, then 13 years later our mother) go through long and painful illnesses and deaths. These deaths took a real toll on our family in many ways; particularly regarding the relationships between my brothers and sister and myself. Despite our best efforts, our mothers death, and the events that occurred between my two brothers and my sister during my mother’s last few days on this earth were literally devastating to us as a family – I will just leave it at that.
But back to the current scene - Now what do I do? – I had never been to Minnesota – my oldest brother was now gone – Paul and I had too many things left to do, too much music still to dig – please excuse the language but as Paul and I used to often say to each other – we had a lot of important fucking off to do!
I had to figure out what to do to hopefully work things out for my brother Paul – to work things out for and with my only remaining brother (Pete) who I love very much and has been such an important part of my life and my sister (Toni) who also simply takes up a major portion of my heart – how will I possibly manage to make this one work out – this was Paul – I had to make this a good scene - to honor his life and the memories of those with which he had spent so much of his adult life in the Minneapolis area – like I had any idea who they were(?!).
Yes – I knew someone in Minnesota but that was about it – there was Lynn (Kerry Lynn Thatcher); Paul’s long-time companion – she and Paul had been down to visit in Tampa on a few occasions in the past and we all had an excellent time with them – we definitely did some swinging. Lynn had been the one who contacted me to inform me that Paul was gravely ill – now we had to work things out to bring closure to Paul’s passing. But things were not looking great – Lynn was distraught and beside herself (to put it lightly) and easy to understand, after all; her friend and companion was gone – we had to figure something out.
One by One!
Well - one by one, very positive things (small miracles) began to happen:
First of all, Lynn connected me with one of my now new brothers – Terry Burns, a tremendous bass player who also lived in the Twin Cities area, and was one of Paul’s very closest friends. Please understand that I am not sure that Terry knew anything about me – other than that I was Paul’s brother – but that was plenty for him. I found out that Terry had been visiting the hospital daily and supporting Lynn the best he could and sticking by Paul. To put it simply; Terry put up with me over these last several weeks probably out of respect for Paul) and graciously helped me through the difficulties of figuring out how best to bring appropriate closure (with honor and dignity) to my brother’s passing. It turns out that Terry and I are exactly the same age – both born in 1955 – and I knew that if he was a very close friend of my brother and a musician that we would also have a lot in common.
Next, my niece Anne (my sister Toni’s youngest, stepped in – she immediately began researching and probing and finding things out and contacting people. I believe it was Anne that found and contacted Randy Resnick who set up the “Remembering Paul Lagos website”. Anne also contacted David Lindley –Kaleidoscope and many other accolades, and Harvey Mandel, and John Mayall, and many others. Needless to say – much of the excellent things that began to transpire were at least partly – let me tell you, a lot more than just partly - due Anne’s un-relenting efforts. Anne’s un-bridled enthusiasm and continued discoveries were literally inspirational and kept me focused and motivated. Anne was the queen of the computer and she was determined to make sure that the memory of her Uncle Paul would be a first class top notch affair. Anne and Randy Resnick became fast friends – doing their thing – cyber communicators deluxe! I started to call them the editors - So what about Randy?
Upon hearing about my brother’s passing; Randy Resnick (another one of my new brothers – and a great guitar player but my pnly knowledge of him was through discussions with my brother Paul and listening to Pure Food and Drug Act) immediately set up a web site in honor of Paul and proceeded to show us all how it is done – I mean he was the man!. Randy lives in France and he and Anne started working stuff out all over the place and Randy starts pumping memories of great music and friendship between Paul and he and Randy’s brother Art Resnick (a great piano player) and many others. Both Randy and Art contacted me by phone and we hob-nobbed about Paul and ourselves and plans, etc. – if you have been looking at the web site Randy set up – you can only be impressed with what has happened on that site.
One by One!
Then Anne found Moo Moo (my brother Paul’s daughter Michelle Lagos) living in Portland – apparently, the two cousins re-connected and hit it off immediately – they joined forces to bring the whole scene to a new level together and individually. Michelle had been a grade-school girl when I had last seen her – when we were together in Florida – she is the image of my brother Paul in many ways and had been a particular joy to me when she was with us in the Tampa bay area (after all – like her grandmother and me – Michelle is a dancer!). You should have seen her do her thing to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall - Michelle staring pumping information on the web site including a recipe for Paul’s now famous spaghetti sauce and communicating with Randy, and Art and many others. Michelle has a daughter of her own now and is doing great up in Portland. Now, she was also going to make the scene in Minneapolis.
As all this is going on- we are trying to make arrangements for Paul’s memorial ceremony and a celebration of his life which would be held at the Artists’ Quarter in downtown St. Paul. Terry had worked it out with Kenny and Dave – the owners of the Artists’ Quarter, who graciously were going to open up their establishment for a celebration of Paul’s life. Things were really beginning to work out but the real test was still to come – how would things really work out with our attempt to honor my brother and those who had lived their lives with him (little did I know how well things would work out)?
One by One!
So, now I have arrived in St. Paul now and checking out where the Artist’s Quarter is; and also checking in and hassling with the catering people to make sure that they were going to provide us with some traditional Italian for the jazz scene that we wanted to have at the Artists’ Quarter. I know Terry thought I was being a little crazy about this stuff but he graciously put up with me and my incessant desire that this stuff be done in a manner that would at least be considered satisfactory by my brother Paul’s very high party standards and myself. Also – I wanted to make sure that the food would be cool for my own family (particularly my brother and sister) as well as the many musicians and friends that I was hoping would come out to the Sunday night celebration.
If I had felt that I had the time to pull it off – I would have cooked the food myself – I had done it numerous times past, with and without my brother Paul, when we put on tremendous jazz parties down in Tampa at the community radio station (WMNF – 88.5 FM). I had just done it again a week prior to coming to Minneapolis (down in Tampa) – in past years, while living in Tampa, I had been the host of a jazz show on WMNF and was visiting and had prepared a huge pot of Red Beans and Rice for a jazz party – Paul was not the only one who can cook with soul in my family. As my brother Paul used to say over the years; “Nicky is the King of Munch” – we both agreed that on all occasions – especially at a party scene – one must make sure to supply “The Highest Quality” – that does not mean fancy, but it has to be great - there was and is only one way!
One by One!
Our family began to arrive in St. Paul and we all got together with Lynn and Terry on Saturday evening for a wonderful diner and an overall excellent time. Anne and Michelle and Bob (Annes husband) and my sister were all having a great time but I was particularly happy to see Lynn and Terry having fun with us. We toasted our brother in the tradition that we had learned from my father years ago (in broken Italian American) – questa vino; belafino: I drinka myself!
My brother Pete arrived on Sunday morning and we held a family gathering and memorial ceremony late Sunday morning at Minnehaha Falls and it was there that we all met another of Paul’s great friends – Tommy O’Donnel (excellent piano player). It was a very emotional cermeny to say the least – but a nice one – at which we read testimonials by Art Resnick and others along with some prayers and basically re-affirmed our love for our passed brother/father/uncle/friend and followed up with a pleasant meal together. But in my mind, the real scene was not yet accomplished – we needed to make it happen at the Artists’ Quarter, not for us, for Paul’s friends in the area.
As I had stated to my brother Pete – I hope we see a lot of people who have no idea who we are and could care less who we are and they are there to have fun and remember their friend Paul Lagos.
But my comments were gladly wrong; yes they did not know us – yes they were there to have fun with each other but they really ended up giving so much to us and associating with us perhaps as a connection to their dear friend who had passed.
One by one! – they came in - as Pete and I stood at the entrance to the Artists’ Quarter and greeted people – musicians and friends came to celebrate and express their sorrow at the loss of our brother (and their friend). There was literally a multitude of stories of Paul’s friendship and mentoring and helping and unrelenting expert musicianship and love which poured out into the jazz bar on this night. They literally devoured the food – which made us all very happy and then the real fun started - the live music started up.
First the Children of the Night – who literally overjoyed my jazz senses – especially at the particular time that they began their set (I will come back to the Children of the Night later) – then the Beau Koo Jacks rocked the house and brought us all down to Bourbon Street in our minds – then Tommy O’Donnel and Gordy Johnson and Jay Epstein threw down a piano trio set that had the whole place digging every note that Tommy and the boys put down – later Lucia sang a heart-felt and beautiful song dedicated to Paul and Mighty Terry Burns dedicated a bass solo composition to Paul Lagos and family that literally stopped everyone cold – we could not help but listen closely to the excellent performance by Terry – it filled our senses - and the night continued with jamming and fun.
The place was filled with musicians and old friends of Paul Lagos and every one of them was there to celebrate and when they played the music poured out of them - believe me – this had turned into a real jazz scene – for that evening the Artists’ Quarter was definitely the Jazz Corner of Our World!
The players seemed particularly in sync with each other and loose and they all seemed to remember an old adage that Paul used to say which basically says – I Don’t Care What Instrument You are Playing – You Better be Saying Something! And say something they did!
We also had some spoken word performances by Michelle’s Uncle Steven, Bob Giles (Annes husband) and Michelle herself over the top of some Coltrane. They were letters that Paul had written in the past regarding love and relationships and were hysterical to hear and poignant at the same time and all very well performed.
Late in the evening – Terry Burns gave everyone in the place a small amount of wine (I think it was Chianti) which Randy Resnick had purchased with the expressed request that we all make a toast to his old and dear friend – Paul Lagos. Terry said a few words about his now passed loved one (Paul) and the inception of the CD cover for the Just in Time recording and subsequently allowed me to make the toast for Randy to my brother – so I took the opportunity on behalf of my family to thank Randy and everyone who had come out to celebrate Paul – and proceeded to state our Family’s official toast:
Questa Vino Bellafino I Drinka Myself!
Michelle Lagos got up and spoke for a few minutes to the crowd and thanked everyone for the tremendous outpouring of love that they had all given to her and our entire family – it had truly been a wonderful and fulfilling evening. Michelle was an excellent and poised spokesperson (without a doubt).
After all was said and done – I came to the realization that I had been wrong about the entire scene – I had been so concerned about making this scene work out for others so that it would be a good time for them and therefore an appropriate honoring of my brother but it was really all of them who ended up taking care of me and my family.
It was a tremendous scene for my family – my brother Pete and my sister Toni had a great time – they enjoyed meeting all the people and loved the music. Anne Gunther Giles and Bob Giles loved the scene – there is no better hob nobber than Anne – my niece can really work a room (no doubt). As far as my other niece – Michelle Lagos; not only was it a delight to see her but her speaking and enjoyment of the music and the people and her statements in honor of her now passed father and her re-found family were heart-warming to say the least. Uncle Steven was a true asset to the occasion in many ways - beside just being a very nice person – thank you for that Steve.
So, on behalf of Kerry Lynn Thatcher and my family - brother Peter, sister Toni, my nieces (Anne Gunther Giles, and Michelle Lagos and Lisa Lagos), Uncle Steven, Bob Giles and my nephews who unfortunately could not be in Minneapolis -Craig William Gunther Jr., Christian David Gunther, Britt Lagos, Craig Lagos, Peter Samual Lagos, and Benjamin Lagos; I will give my most heart-felt thanks to all of those who contributed to making this memorial occasion so great and enable us all to better understand what a wonderful life my brother Paul had lived and the contributions that he had made to all of their lives how important he was to them. We will always remember our time in Minneapolis and the one last gift that Paul was able to give to us – all of you!
I will take this opportunity to call out a couple of names in particular who went way above and beyond the call of duty to help Lynn and the rest of my family (to all you others - please do not think that because I did not mention you that we do not fully appreciate the kindness and good feeling that you have provided us):
Terry Burns – it is to late you buddy – you are now part of our whacked out family
Randy Resnick – thank you my brother from a different mother from the bottom of my heart
A special shout out to Mr. Tommy O’Donnel – you touched my family with your love and you set the night on Fire with your piano playing at the celebration – in particular, your arrangement and expert playing of Love for Sale was (in my mind) the topper on and evening full of steaming hot performances and just as hot solos by a number of musicians who rocked the house in my brother Paul’s name.
It is hard for me to say that I enjoyed any tune more than Terry’s performance of his composition Mighty – that was truly beautiful.
I could literally go on and on about the music and singing by all of you – it allowed me to feel like I was hanging out with my brother Paul at least one last time – thank you for that!
I will conclude by coming back to the Children of the Night:
You need to understand that although there are many many musical artists that I love – my top three artists, in no particular order, are; Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane, and The Jazz Messengers (Allman Brothers and James Brown get very close honorable mentions). Back in the mid 70s when my brother Paul came east and he and I began to really hang out a lot and listen to music together (this continued on through-out the rest of our lives together) – on one of the first of many music buying and listening expeditions; we purchased three very important albums: Horace Silver’s greatest hits, Lee Morgan’s Memorial Album of greatest hits, and an Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers double album that included a re-issue of the Ugetzu album – on this album was a tune that immediately became one of my favorite tunes that Paul and I played over and over again and is still a favorite of mine to this day.
As I introduced the Children of the Night on Sunday evening at my brother’s celebration event to lead off the live music – I did not know what they were going to play but I was aware that they were going to play charts of arrangements that Paul had made up for them when they were doing their thing together – years ago.
To my great delight the Children of the Night led off their set with that particular Jazz Messenger favorite – and the name of that tune:
One by One!
I will say good bye to my loving brother, friend, and confidant – Paul Lagos – I know that he was up there listening just like me and every once in a while he would say on that night and from time to time he will continue to say to me:
DID YOU HEAR THAT? – MAN THAT IS THE SHIT!
Yes Paul – I heard that – and I will keep on hearing it and keep on swinging till the day I die!
Nicholas Lagos, P.E.
671 views and 8 responses
Nov 17 2009, 4:00 AMrandulo responded:Amazing, what else can I say? Thanks for sharing that!
Nov 18 2009, 1:10 AMMichelle Lagos responded:Uncle Nick - Thank you for this awesome recount. It's a spot-on, real, and an open recount of our time in St. Paul. I really appreciate all of your organization, dedication, and the positive ways that you brought to the whole "scene." Many hugs to you, Michelle
Nov 18 2009, 12:24 PMArt Resnick responded:Hey Nicky,
what else is there to say? Your description put me right there and from my heart I feel connected to the whole family. When Michelle comes back to Portland there will be another reunion.....between us. I have not seen her since I was in Clearwater hangin' with the man.
Paul did the final TIO, and you (and all the others you mentioned) shuttled him out exactly the way he wanted.
Nov 18 2009, 4:40 PMNick Lagos responded:Thanks for your comments Art - this was one swinging affair at the Artists' Quarter. I am looking forward to seeing some pictures of you and Moo Moo together.
I was thinking that I should have got on the stage and sang Nature Boy because the greatesst thing that you will ever learn is to love and be loved in return!
You should have seen Michelle up there on stage and also hob nobbing with the musicians and other friends - as Michelle stated at the Family Gathering at Minnehaha Falls - she is her father's daughter and her socializing is a typical example of that.
Nov 30 2009, 2:16 PMTom Zosel responded:Hey Nick-- I know it's been a little while since the AQ tribute, but I wanted you to know that Paul definitely LIVES! When I first learned of his passing I was overcome by a worldly sense of loss, that is, the world in effect is now less creative without Paul. Well, rather than accept that, I have worked EVERY DAY in my teaching(youth jazz and band students, etc.)and playing to keep his presence felt. I will continue to do so because I know he would have wanted it this way.
So far, so amazing!
Nov 30 2009, 11:22 PMrandulo responded:@Tom, thanks for the comment, I was just thinking today about how much I feel the small effort to create this site has brought in benefits. Thanks to everyone who has contributed.
Speaking of "vigil", Paul told a story about how Elvin Jones used to call it "Virgil" as in "Let's play Virgil"
Dec 1 2009, 3:29 AMannegiles responded:That's very cool Tom.
Dec 1 2009, 2:58 PMLagos, responded:
Thanks for the inspirational comments – we have to let our presence be felt in whatever we are doing – although I am not a musician, I am trying to make my own statement in my work (engineering work). <o:p></o:p>
Something that I was thinking about my brother is that his ideals can live on through us – keep doing your thing Tom, and continue to work at perfecting your craft – I will do the same.<o:p></o:p>
Nicholas Lagos, P.E.<o:p></o:p>