My friend, John Sheridan - jazz genius, fabulous storyteller and beautiful soul - has lost his battle with cancer. He knew the end was near and so did his friends and loved ones, but nobody is ever really prepared for such a loss. The thought of a world without his incredible musicianship, artistry, encyclopedic knowledge of jazz music and kindness is simply inconceivable.
An internationally respected pianist and arranger, he was a longtime member of the Jim Cullum Jazz Band and also fronted his own world-class jazz bands throughout his career. He also loved to sing and to wax philosophical about politics and history. He recorded prolifically. He was hilarious and could make me double over laughing with his wry sense of humor. And I’ve never known anyone who could sport a bow tie like he did!
I was blessed and so very fortunate to perform with him for many years, particularly when he took a five-year hiatus from the traveling Cullum band. He and I and Chuck Moses, often joined by Darren Kuper, Hal Smith and others (including Jim Cullum himself!), made music together everywhere you can imagine, from swanky black-tie galas and bistros, to bars and jazz festivals. He taught me many wonderful songs and wrote gorgeous charts for me, including a medley of New York tunes for my Big Apple debut in 2013. I cherish those charts - all handwritten in pencil just for me!
I last saw him in June at a poignant afternoon tribute and jam session that Jim Cullum’s daughter hosted in his honor. Knowing he was seriously ill, his jazz friends from all over San Antonio and across the country came to pay their respects, express their love, and jam. That afternoon I was able to sing with John one last time. I chose “You Belong to Me,” a Jo Stafford favorite that he always asked me to do at our gigs. He was tired that day, but he was happy being surrounded by all of that love and swing!
My heart is both heavy and uplifted tonight. Heavy because we’ve lost a beloved man, but uplifted because I know that John is without pain and he’s now swingin’ with the saints!
RIP, wonderful friend. Thank you for all you taught me about music, singing, and life. I will never forget you.
--Ken Slavin, August 24, 2021