Thursday, April 12, 2012

R.I.P.: George Mesterhazy

Musician George Mesterhazy Dies
Sudden death of beloved Cape May pianist and friend of many leaves regional jazz community — and beyond — shocked and deeply saddened.
By Jeff Schwachter - Posted Apr. 12, 2012

George Mesterhazy, one of the finest jazz pianists and arrangers in the Jersey shore area, admired around the world, has died, Atlantic City Weekly learned Thursday evening, April 12.

Mesterhazy, who was about to celebrate the release of his latest recording with singer Paula West, Live at Jazz Standard, with four shows at the Manhattan jazz club scheduled — with West — May 10 to May 13, was nominated for a Grammy for his work as a player and arranger on Shirley Horn's 1997 album Loving You.

The Cape May resident, who played frequently in the resort town, was found dead in his bed earlier Thursday, according to one source close with Mesterhazy.

He was 58.

Mesterhazy had just played with his renowned trio at Sandi Pointe in Somers Point the night before, Wednesday night, April 11.

"It's a huge loss," says Nick Regine, president of the Somers Point Jazz Society, and close friend of Mesterhazy. Regine says he found out around 6pm that Mesterhazy had passed, just about 24 hours after seeing him perform at Sandi Pointe.

"I just saw him last night. I gave him a kiss. Not only from the jazz standpoint is this devastating, but he was just the sweetest individual. I just loved the guy. There is a huge hole."
Dan Anderson, who owns and operates Sandi Pointe with his wife, is stunned.

"It's kind of strange for all of us right now, really bizarre," says Anderson, who recalls Mesterhazy as being his "own self — fun-loving, entertaining, joking with the audience in the dining room, telling stories" and playing his powerful brand of piano per usual Wednesday night.

"I've only gotten to know George over the past few years, but he's become part of the family here," adds Anderson.

"There are a lot of musicians who we get to know through events with the Somers Point Jazz Society, and he got to know everybody here and everybody knew him.

"There are some musicians who people get really, really pumped up [to see perform] and he was certainly one of them."

Bass player and long-time friend and member of Mesterhazy's trio, Tim Lekan, as well as drummer Paul Jost, rounded out the piano man's trio for his final set Wednesday night.

This writer had the opportunity to get to know Mesterhazy over the years and spoke with him last at the Jazz at the Point festival, presented by the Somers Point Jazz Society, in March.

Mesterhazy, with a newly cropped hair-style, faded blue-jean jacket, spectacles and scarf, was in attendance for the Saturday night and Sunday portions of the jazz festival, hanging out at Sandi Pointe with his fellow artists, friends, colleagues and admirers — in good spirits as always, and talking about his always-busy music schedule.

The local jazz community, after losing Hassan Abdullah in 2011, Johnny Andrews the year before, and now Mesterhazy, is in a state of shock.

Regine says the SPJS will pay tribute to the late great Mesterhazy, a dear friend of the organization and its members, in the near future.

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