2005-07-16 18:53:10 UTC
By Katherine Pfrommer, STAFF WRITER
Jeffrey Spencer McCormick, who under the moniker J. Spencer got to live
his dream of being a professional musician, died July 9 at his
Pleasanton home. He was 36.
Cause of death is still to be determined, family members said.
"He was full of life one day, collapsed the next," brother Harold
McCormick III said. "We don't know what happened, it's still a
Born May 17, 1969, in Berkeley, Mr. McCormick grew up in East Oakland.
He graduated from Castlemont High School in 1987.
Music seemed to be his destiny.
"We come from a musical family," Harold McCormick said. "My dad loved
jazz and the horn, and Jeff took to it like a fish to water. He started
at a very young age - 7 or 8. He had an aptitude that none of us had.
He loved it."
Friend Mike Spencer agrees.
"Playing sax came natural, he excelled at it," he said. The two met in
elementary school and have been as close as brothers ever since. "He
got his start right after high school. Getting recognized (at such a
young age) is unusual - unless you're that good."
Athletic growing up, Mr. McCormick was a star basketball player as a
teenager. He could also draw - mostly sketches with pencils - and
over the years he created hundreds of beautiful sketches, his brother
"That really translated to his music," he said. "He made his first
album at 20. Before that, he played on an En Vogue album. He's been in
the business a long time. He was a young veteran."
In 1993, as J. Spencer, Mr. McCormick released "Chimera." Two years
later, in 1995, he released "Blue Moon." He was working on a third, and
had a number of songs not yet published, his brother said. Critics
called his earlier work a mixture of hip-hop and jazz. Mike Spencer,
however, describes it differently.
"He played everything, music is music," he said "People in the music
world did not necessarily give him enough credit. He was a well-rounded
"We started out in the early'90s, and had this dream of having bands
and being big stars," he added. "It's a dream of every minority kid -
and he got to work at what he wanted. He was dedicated to music."
Mr. McCormick played alto and baritone sax, but soprano sax was his
signature horn, his brother said.
"He was phenomenal," he said. "He had his own signature. You know how
you can hear a musician and know who it is? That's how he sounds. I've
been in places and heard a song, and I knew it was my brother."
Soon after high school, Mr. McCormick met the woman who'd become his
wife. Nujan McCormick lived across the country during the first stages
in the relationship, and the couple spent hundreds of dollars on
long-distance phone calls.
The two had been together for 17 years, married for almost a decade and
the parents of one son, 5-year-old Jeff Jr., brother Harold said.
In addition to his brother Harold, Jeffrey McCormick is survived by
wife Nujan, son Jeff Jr., and siblings Stephanie, Kathleen, Carlton,
Jennifer and James McCormick. Mother Bonnie and father Harold Jr.
McCormick preceded him in death.
A public memorial service is scheduled for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at
Fouche's Husdon Funeral Home, 3665 Telegraph Ave., Oakland.