2004-07-10 03:23:22 UTC
Jazzman was one of city's greatest: He played with 'joie de
vivre': Oliver Jones. Musician mastered bass after buying
his first instrument in a pawn shop at age 30
SOURCE: The Montreal Gazette
BYLINE: ALAN HUSTAK
Skip Bey, an American-born bassist who built a reputation as
one of Montreal's finest jazz musicians, died of cancer
early yesterday morning in the Maisonneuve-Rosemont
Hospital. He was 67.
"Playing with Skip was like going to church and school at
the same time," said pianist Tim Jackson, Bey's musical
partner for 22 years.
"He was very encouraging, very open to musicians, and
"He was phenomenal, the easiest bass player in the world to
play with. If you went out on a limb improvising and got
lost, he'd grab you and show you the way home; he'd always
bring you back home."
Kaspar Crumby Bey was born in Toledo, Ohio, on May 24, 1937.
His mother died when he was 4, and Bey was raised in an
orphanage before being sent to Boys Town, Neb., to complete
his education. He worked as a court stenographer in New York
City before joining the U.S. army in 1965 during the Vietnam
war. Bey was 30 years old before he picked up a bass in a
pawn shop and started playing the instrument.
Bey began his professional career accompanying vocalist Nina
Simone on a European tour, then briefly ran a music
conservatory in Milwaukee, before going to New York City to
play with Lee Shaw's trio.
"He was the backbone of every group he played with," Shaw
said yesterday from her home in Albany, N.Y.
"He had such fluency with his instrument, he never got in
the way. He was always supportive and let the soloist be the
star, even though he was better than anybody. He was tuned
into the music 100 per cent of the time. I rarely have known
anyone to whom music was so important."
A fluid player, during his career Bey also backed the
legendary Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter, Tony Bennett and
performed with such greats as Art Blakey, Nat Adderley and
Bey moved to Montreal from Burlington, Vt., where he had
been living in 1980 and played Club Miles before teaming up
with pianist Tim Jackson. The duo, affectionately known to
fans as "Skim and Tip," opened Upstairs, a jazz club on
Bishop St. They were frequently booked at the Sheraton
Centre and were fixtures at Jazzons, a club on Ontario St.
that no longer exists.
Bey recently recorded a CD, Then and Now, with pianist
Oliver Jones, who called Bey "an inventive musician with
beautiful technique who always played with such joie de
Bey was married twice. His first marriage ended in divorce
in 1976. He had two children - a daughter and son, who is
believed to have been killed in the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.
He is survived by his wife, Diane Gagne, a classical pianist
who had been his life partner for the last 20 years.
A memorial service is being planned for the Lion d'Or, where
Bey played for the last time on June 27.