Saturday, March 3, 2012

R.I.P.: Eddie Fritz

Eddie Fritz Dies; Well-Known Jazz Pianist and Bandleader
by Calvin Wilson - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 3, 2012

Eddie Fritz, a jazz pianist and bandleader whose career harked back to the glory days of Gaslight Square, died Monday (Feb. 27, 2012) of a liver ailment at St. Anthony's Medical Center. He was 69 and lived in Eureka.

Mr. Fritz was a familiar presence on the jazz scene, but he performed only occasionally in recent years because of his illness, said a son, Eddie Fritz Jr. of Los Angeles.

In a 1990 interview with the Post-Dispatch, Mr. Fritz said that jazz has an audience that deserves to be addressed. "Nobody's taking care of the needs of these people, and that's what we're trying to do," he said.

Mr. Fritz became interested in music as a youngster, taking piano lessons at the St. Louis Institute of Music. During his years at St. Louis University High School, he formed a dance combo called the Hi-Note Quartet. While earning a business degree at St. Louis University, Mr. Fritz led a jazz group at the Upstream Lounge at Seventh and Pine streets.

Mr. Fritz and his combo performed in Gaslight Square in the mid-1960s. He had a long-term gig at the Breckenridge hotel in Frontenac, and also performed on the Admiral and at the Chase Park Plaza and Ritz-Carlton hotels. Jazz greats such as trumpeter Cootie Williams, singer Nancy Wilson and singer-pianist Buddy Greco often sat in at the Breckenridge, Mr. Fritz recalled in a Post-Dispatch article in 1998. He said he was particularly fond of big band jazz.

"I love that energy, that power on stage that transfers to the people on the dance floor," he said. "We're talking swing, tango, mambo, cha-cha and Latin salsa."

Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road, Ladue, followed by a memorial service. Interment is private.

In addition to his son, among the survivors are his wife, Deborah; another son, Matthew Fritz of St. Louis County; a daughter, Jennifer Thissen of Wildwood; two sisters, Rosemary Wilson of Little Rock, Ark., and Carolyn Gleason of Des Peres; and two grandchildren.

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