A true musician
Longtime local musician Dave Schappert passed away in Denver on May 21, his 81st birthday. Many from Aspen and up and down the valley will remember and cherish his brilliant jazz piano paying at the Tippler, the Aspen Inn, the Meadows, Syzygy and countless other clubs around town. He was a bona-fide legend, and I am forever grateful that I got to sing with him for decades, from the late ’70s until he moved to Denver in 2006.
Dave was a dear friend and also my musical mentor and improvisational co-conspirator – a truly great, world-class jazzer who played the piano straight from the heart and generously extended that invitation to everyone he ever played with.
I consider him one of my best and toughest teachers. I wrote him a letter a few years ago and said, “I have never played with anyone better, or truer, or more creative, or more brilliant, or more utterly playful, or more deeply generous. You have supported my singing and my soul, and have taught me well how to shut up and play.”
Dave was a bag of contradictions – eccentric and musically demanding, lovable, infuriating, courageous, brilliant, impossible, a dear heart. Bottom line: Dave just loved playing, diving into the aliveness of a song, making it up fresh and new in each moment, tossing around his ideas like a hot potato, which often made for a wild ride for the band.
Dave was a genius, but he was always trying to outguess himself. I’d say that 50 percent of what we played together was utterly beautiful, 25 percent was borderline genius, and the last 25 percent was totally insane.
Let’s talk about endings. Dave never played anything the same way twice, so it was always a case of being prepared for absolutely anything. I learned to take a huge breath before singing that last note, whatever it was, because I often had to hold on to it for about 30 seconds while he went through an impossible series of wild chord changes to get us back to the original key. Or not. Sometimes we ended up in some alternate harmonic universe, but it was always strangely satisfying and perfect in the moment.
So there it is, that thrill. Even now, after he’s gone and I’m listening back to some of our funky live recordings, I find myself holding my breath, still not knowing where or how he will lead me through the song but knowing that somehow we’ll always find our way home.
Dave Schappert was one of a kind. We will miss him forever and be forever grateful that we got to be with him in the ways that were perfect for each of us. A memorial jam session will be held in his honor Sunday at Herb’s Hideaway, a jazz club in Denver: 2057 Larimer St, 80205. No reservations necessary.
Just show up. Thanks for the memories.
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